News comes today that Merck is going to put in a new research site in London. I’m not sure if anyone saw that coming – their previous UK research site is long gone, and seems now to be turning into housing developments. And I’m sure that the government is very happy to announce this sort of thing, since the European Medicines Agency just announced that they’re moving to Amsterdam in the wake of the Brexit process.
This will be an expensive undertaking, since it mentions the word “London”. It is interesting, though, that it mentions that word instead of “Cambridge”, which is where a lot of money has poured into biopharma facilities the last few years. That brings up a larger question: all the stories about this move mention the supposed London-Oxford-Cambridge “hub”, but I have to wonder about that a bit. Aren’t those rather spread out for a hub? These seem to me to be three very distinct areas, culturally, and it seems a bit strange (from an outside observer) to try to make them all part of one bigger thing.
Then there’s the physical aspect. If you lose a job in one of those three locations, will you have to move in order to realistically take a new position in another? I’ve made that exact triangular trip, as has many an academically- or scientifically-inclined visitor to the UK, and I would not necessarily wish to commute from one to the other on a daily basis. Because of London’s centrality, the worst of the commutes would probably be between Oxford and Cambridge, and the classic way of splitting the difference between those two is what, Milton Keynes?
I realize that the same objections can be raised to some of the Bay Area locations here in the US, both in biopharma and in the hardware/software fields. Point taken; the commutes out there can be brutal. Berkeley/San Jose is probably just as time-consuming a regular trip as London/Oxford, but to outside observers, Berkeley and San Jose both qualify as “Bay Area”. So, any thoughts from the UK readership? Is Oxford/Cambridge/London a “thing”, or is it more “aspirational” as a coherent hub?