Co-working could Drive Innovation, Distribution of Talent Across U.S.
Pictured: scientists working in lab/gorodenkoff/Getty Images
When hybrid work is brought up, what comes to mind for most is fully remote work or splitting time between working at home or in the office.
A third option–co-working–has gained popularity in recent years. Co-working combines elements of both remote and in-office work without falling into either category.
Most often, co-working spaces consist of typical office buildings with rooms, cubicles or desks that individuals or small groups can rent. They are surrounded by others doing different work for different companies, combining the freedom of remote work with the camaraderie of an in-person role.
In the life sciences, however, co-working spaces are less common, largely because the infrastructure must accommodate desk workers and scientists needing lab space.
Money, Money, Money
Allan Glass is the CEO of HATCHspaces, a company that provides co-working spaces specifically tailored to the life sciences. He told BioSpace there are two primary challenges to creating these spaces:
Finding an appropriately-sized building to accommodate the infrastructure needed to build a lab, and
affording said building and any necessary renovations.
Glass explained some of the ways in which a building suitable for a lab differs from a typical office building.
“Lab buildings have more extensive air handling systems, heavy power that is sub-divided for each tenant, backup power generators for emergency purposes, high ceiling clearances to account for additional air handling…” and much more, he said.
This is one reason many startups in the industry fail–the cost is simply too great. HATCHspaces was formed to solve that problem, Glass said, as it caters to groups that are ready to “hatch” into their next stage of growth.
“Our lab suites are suited for companies that no longer rely upon grant funding from agencies such as the NIH, CDC or NSF and have begun to raise private capital from private equity firms and/or venture capital partners,” he explained.
Glass also emphasized the importance of community for small companies or those that are just starting out. There is a higher likelihood of success, he said, for those that surround themselves with like-minded individuals.
“We have found that nurturing companies at an early stage as they move through the ‘valley of death’ greatly enhances their chance of success,” Glass said.
Distribution Drives Innovation
One drawback of co-working spaces is that they are typically only available in large cities with dense populations. Because of this, many see them as a temporary fad.
John Flavin, founder and CEO of Portal Innovations, disagrees. Portal Innovations is a venture capital firm that provides life sciences companies with early-stage funding and fully equipped fully-equipped, shared lab spaces.
Flavin told BioSpace that a few years ago, life sciences-focused co-working spaces were concentrated in established biotech hubs like Boston, San Francisco and San Diego. He said he now sees more of these spaces opening in emerging cities like Chicago, Houston and Atlanta, and he expects this to rapidly increase over the next decade.
“Co-working environments now are becoming available…in brand new markets that you couldn't [previously] work from in biotech, and offering that infrastructure in these locations creates new growth areas beyond those typical hotspots,” Flavin said.
These emerging cities are chosen partly because of the talent they already house. Flavin said his company is expanding from Chicago to several locations across the U.S., all of which will be based near universities known for their life sciences programs.
Flavin said these decisions are based on what he sees as the future of the industry. He believes the days of talent moving to biopharma hot spots are numbered. And distribution of talent, he said, is beneficial not only for the workforce but for patients as well.
“I think the biotech company of the future will be distributed,” Flavin said. “We’re going to see more diverse ideas, more innovation, different patient populations …overall, it’ll be good for the economy and for new ideas that will ultimately impact patients over time.”