THE flagship BioQuarter that was developed to harness the expertise of the NHS, Edinburgh university and private sector players is set for a £750 million expansion under plans that will be announced this week.

Anna Stamp, who leads the team masterminding the latest phase of development for the Edinburgh healthcare science cluster, said the change will be transformational and help put the complex on to the global stage.

The team are looking to generate interest among international players for a programme that Ms Stamp reckons could have a big impact on the wider Scottish economy and the health of people around the world.

High value jobs to fore in inward investment plans

The project is expected to result in a big increase in the scale of a complex that is already home to the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, Edinburgh university’s medical school, research facilities and innovative life sciences businesses.

The vision for the expanded BioQuarter includes homes and leisure and shopping facilities that will increase the appeal of working on the site and help persuade firms to establish operations.

It will be presented to investors from across the world at the MIPIM industry event in Cannes in March.

While some people in Scotland may not be aware of the BioQuarter, Ms Stamp is confident that the unique combination of world class medical facilities and expertise available on the site will allow the project to generate strong interest.

“There’s nearly 8,000 staff, students, researchers, entrepreneurs here today. We’ve got the 900-bed hospital, the home of the medical school, we’ve got the university’s research home here; it’s already a melting pot of amazing people and amazing work,” said Ms Stamp.

She added: “BioQuarter can be a lot more again and that is the transformational vision we have: to take BioQuarter today and its amazing attributes and put it on to the global path, to expand significantly in terms of its numbers, in terms of who we attract, the types of innovators we want to attract.”

An architect by training, Ms Stamp said the scheme under development will include all the elements of a good place.

“It will be a place where people want to work, to play, to discover … we train the next generation of doctors here, the next generation of innovators so we want to attract the absolute best students, so a place where you would want to spend your seven year’s training.”

The plan should provide a significant boost to the regeneration of south-east Edinburgh, with improved transport links and job opportunities for local people in prospect.

A lot of work is being done to build links with the local community. Ms Stamp is keen to ensure that school children in nearby Craigmillar are encouraged to feel they could become one of the innovators working at the BioQuarter.

She believes its expansion will help reinforce Scotland’s reputation as a centre of innovation in the healthcare sphere and further support the development of the life sciences sector in the country.

“Scotland has always punched above its weight when it comes to medical innovation right up to today. It’s not just the Simpsons and Listers and people of the past, it’s the work that’s coming out of the research just now, it’s amazing and BioQuarter has played and will continue to play a really critical role in that.”

By having a major hospital, research and business facilities in close proximity, BioQuarter helps secure advances in medical science and healthcare and to support the effort to commercialise promising technology.

The commercialisation centre is home to ten spin outs including contract research specialist Aquila BioMedical and there is demand for space from other businesses.

Research giant buys stake in BioQuarter-based business

As a senior member of the estates department at Edinburgh university Ms Stamp led work on research facilities that helped underline the potential of the BioQuarter, before being appointed in August to lead on the expansion plan.

The buildings she worked on in her estates role include the £54m Centre for Regenerative Medicine.

Ms Stamp previously led on the regeneration of the Easter Bush Campus, where the Roslin Institute and the university’s vet school stand on what were muddy fields.

Having worked in senior positions in the public and private sectors Ms Stamp is confident that both will benefit from the Bio Quarter.

Launched in 1997, the BioQuarter is backed by NHS Lothian, Edinburgh university, the City of Edinburgh Council and Scottish Enterprise, which brings life science business development expertise.

Around £850 million has been invested in facilities on the site or those that are under development.

Ms Stamp believes the right private sector players could allow the expansion of the development to proceed on a scale and at a speed that the public sector on its own might not be able to match.

Before starting work at Edinburgh university in 2003, Ms Stamp spent six interesting years at employee-owned John Lewis which she describes as an amazing company.

“You are a partner from day one, there was a sense of family, a sense that you belonged to the business and that it was yours; that gave you an amazing grounding.”

After completing her architectural training with John Lewis, Ms Stamp rose to a position which meant she played an important part in the development of major new stores such as one in the giant Bluewater complex in Kent.

She was pleased to be chosen to lead work on the redesign of the John Lewis branch in the old St James Centre in Edinburgh, 25 miles from her native North Berwick.

That meant having a big influence on a building that family members and friends had shopped in for years.

Ms Stamp thinks the huge St James Quarter development which is under way in Edinburgh represents a welcome improvement on the tired St James Centre which it will replace.

As changes in the retail world mean centres that only house shops could face a struggle the inclusion of hotels should help underpin the viability of the St James Quarter development.

Her work on the BioQuarter expansion means she could play a key role in the development of another project that leaves a lasting impression on the city of Edinburgh.

Ms Stamp wants to remain involved in regeneration work in future. As a senior figure in the building world she hopes to make an impact in other ways. These include helping to ensure the construction industry gives women a fairer deal.

“I think the construction industry is really failing in how it promotes females … I can interview contractors all day and sometimes not a single female walks through the door.”


What countries have you most enjoyed travelling to, for business or leisure, and why?

Hong Kong – as part of my architecture course back in the 90’s I was able to live and work in Hong Kong for a year. With the vibrancy, colours, noise, smells, Hong Kong was a city that never slept and I loved every second of it. To live and work in another country changes your outlook and I would encourage anyone who gets the chance to take it.

When you were a child, what was your ideal job? Why did it appeal?

I wanted to be an architect from a very early age, influenced heavily by my dad who had his own architectural practise in Leith, Edinburgh. Although architecture is about the built environment it is more about people – buildings are designed, built and lived in by people. As a child I watched my dad bring peoples ideas to reality and make a real difference to the way they lived.

What was your biggest break in business?

I started off my career in the John Lewis Partnership as an architect in the late 90’s. The retail industry was changing rapidly at the time because of the recession and John Lewis embraced this with an ambitious programme of building large stores across the UK delivered in partnership with contractors and developers. This opened an avenue of opportunity for a rookie architect to be involved with and eventually lead large construction projects so early on in my career and learn the business of construction from both the client and investors perspective.

What was your worst moment in business?

When you lead a project for it to be a success you have put your heart and soul into it. So when projects get scrapped it can be quite devastating. Sadly, this happens often in construction industry as funding is not secured or needs change. I am not sure it is something you ever get used to.

Who do you most admire and why?

The architect Zaha Hadid who sadly died in 2016 – she was the first woman to win a RIBA Royal Gold Medal in her own right. As a student we studied no female architects and during my career there have only been a few prominent female role models in architecture and construction. Zaha Hadid came along and without compromising herself, fought for her place in the industry. The construction industry has a long way to go on this.

What book are you reading and what music are you listening to? What was the last film you saw?

I am currently reading Dr Rangan Chatterjee ‘The 4 Pillar Plan’. I am a big fan of his podcast as he takes the whole health & well-being agenda, simplifies it and makes it the responsibility of the individual. Music wise it’s too difficult to say now I have Spotify its all about playlists otherwise its usually my kids who choose the music! The last film I watched was Star Wars The Rise of Skywalker. I am a huge fan of Star Wars all my life. I love watching it with the kids all these years after I watched it as a kid