Incubating a
New Community

“ The building provides highly flexible infrastructure that allows start-ups to flex up and down their floor space. It has established an innovation resource in East London to facilitate science entrepreneurship in proximity to a leading technology university. ”

Dr Ramsay Richmond, Executive Manager Queen Mary BioEnterprises Ltd.

The QMB Innovation Centre is a wholly owned company of Queen Mary Innovation (QMI), the technology transfer company of Queen Mary University of London. As a joint effort of QMI and the London Development Agency (LDA), the building combines leasable lab and office space for biomedical and pharmaceutical start-up companies with academic and administrative space for the university.

As a shared commercial and academic facility located in an East London conservation area, the project had to meet two very specific criteria:

  1. Successfully bring the distinct worlds of commercial research and academia together within one building and set out a technical strategy for the design of incubator space for a multiplicity of unknown future tenants.
  2. Enhance community relations and contribute to local regeneration, historic restoration, and streetscape improvement in a conservation area in East London.

The building’s design is based on a layered approach where the upper floors house the commercial tenant space and the lower levels house university functions. Each use is accessed through a dedicated entrance leading to lobbies that share a single, double-height space overlooking each other. Amenities such as a café, meeting suite and lecture theater are shared to encourage exchange and interaction.

Regenerating an Historic and Urban Environment

A key part of the brief was for the QMB Innovation Centre to contribute to the ongoing regeneration of the area and for the new development to respond to the historic environment. To this end, NBBJ, QMI and the LDA worked closely with the Spitalfields Trust and the Conservation Area Advisory Group of Tower Hamlets. The original planned site was occupied by 11 derelict Georgian terrace houses. Following numerous consultations, the client group agreed to move the scheme to a new site across the street occupied by a mix of outdated university buildings.

The design team took on the challenge of recreating the site’s existing education facilities within the new Innovation Centre while enlivening the streetscape for a friendlier and safer pedestrian experience. The university sold the original site to the Spitalfields Trust who managed the careful restoration of the Georgian houses.

Making the Street Visible
Making the Old, New Again
Restorating and Developing for a Safer Neighborhood
Fitting into the Site's Context
“ The sensitive repair of the old buildings and the sophisticated design of the new Innovation Centre by NBBJ has lifted the area by leaps and bounds and brought a new energy and charm to this forgotten part of the old East End. ”

Tim Whittaker Director, The Spitalfields Trust