Wellcome Trust statement on the Olympic Park
Press release / Published: 4 August 2011
The Wellcome Trust is disappointed that the Government and the Mayor of London did not wish to take our proposals for the Olympic Park further. If our bid had been successful, our holistic vision for the Olympic Park and the legacy would have delivered a world-class centre for technology and innovation and up to 7,000 high-quality new jobs, and it would have made a substantial contribution to the regeneration of East London.
Wellcome's bid was anchored on a compelling vision for the future of the Olympic Park, going beyond bricks and mortar to focus on driving up economic growth and prosperity for the people of East London. We nevertheless hope that the Government and the GLA will get the best deal for Londoners.
The Wellcome Trust has a compelling vision for the Olympic Park and has made a conditional proposal to the government to purchase the freehold.
The Olympic Park is of national importance and requires a national solution. Our solution is to take a holistic view of the Park and focus on economic growth. We would secure the Olympic sporting legacy, provide a return on public funds invested in the Park and create jobs and economic prosperity for east London.
The Wellcome Trust's investment philosophy
The Wellcome Trust first considered the investment potential of the Park in September 2010, when the Athletes' Village was placed for tender. We quickly understood that the success of that investment was dependent upon the success of the wider Olympic Park. Furthermore, we concluded that only by managing the Olympic Park as a single entity would the aspirations for the site be achievable.
We recognise that this investment has significant social consequences, and we have considered these seriously. If successful, we firmly believe it would stimulate major regeneration across east London and provide much-needed jobs, homes and community facilities. In turn, the investment would generate revenues to enable the Wellcome Trust to make charitable grants to improve the health and wellbeing of future generations.
Our investment proposition
Our vision is predicated on the premise that the whole of the Olympic Park is substantially bigger than the sum of the parts. At the heart of our proposal is the creation of an iconic hub – the Life Sciences Innovation Centre. This would be the anchor to support jobs, create new businesses, and enable us to develop residential accommodation across the Park to provide homes for the workers and others who want to live there. It could become the Silicon Valley of Europe.
The key elements of the proposition are as follows:
- Purchase of the freehold.
- Purchase of the Athletes' Village.
- Conversion of the Media Centre into an international hub for world-class research and innovation. Its focus would be technology, application of research for health and innovation, and sports science. It would introduce potentially two academic facilities, a central auditorium and conference centre, shared meeting places, incubator space, space for small and medium-sized businesses, a data centre, and shops and restaurants. It would create up to 7,000 jobs within the new facility and stimulate additional new jobs elsewhere on the Park and across east London.
- The financing of the first phase of residential development on the Park.
- Recognition of the needs of the community by establishing a community endowment, to be agreed, to support the wider Park.
- Support for commercial applications of scientific research by establishing venture capital funds targeted on the Olympic Park and health and technology businesses.
- Using our extensive connections across the sciences and the arts to create a visitor experience bringing sport, health and science to life.
Public value and delivery
Initially, the Wellcome Trust would share the profits with the public sector, reflecting the Trust's investment, and would enable public funding to be repaid. After that, the public sector would continue to receive some profits generated above a priority return.
We would work with OPLC to establish suitable governance and accountability structures for the Park, adopting current plans wherever possible. However, we would wish to develop and hold the sites, rather than sell plots to third-party developers. We would make sufficient capital available for the governing parties to deliver the vision.
We would establish a means to ensure accountability for the public realm to secure the interests of the local community and the wider legacy objectives. We would wish to establish a separate Community and Legacy Advisory Group to provide a forum for consultation on future development and activities for representatives of the major local stakeholders.
Securing the legacy for the Park is hugely complex matter. Our proposal has been developed based on publicly available information and, therefore, contains a number of assumptions. We would wish to discuss these assumptions, alongside our full proposal with government.
Why the Wellcome Trust
The Wellcome Trust is a world-renowned and highly respected UK-based charitable foundation. We are currently celebrating our 75th anniversary and are the only AAA-rated non-government institution in the UK. Independence and integrity are our core values. We are unique in our breadth of experience. We have a strong track record in residential and commercial property development. Furthermore, we understand the life sciences, have global connections with business and academia, and actively engage with the public through our diverse portfolio of activities.
We believe that the Wellcome Trust is the only institution to combine these relationships and competencies with a sufficient capital base and long time horizon to develop and hold the whole site.
We have tested and refined our vision and consulted widely with key stakeholders, who all share our excitement and our ambition. They can see, as we do, the enormous possibilities of a new economic community.
Our proposal also addresses many of the legacy commitments of the government and the Mayor of London. It will transform the heart of east London, inspire a generation of young people, and provide jobs and business opportunities, and in doing so would make the Olympic Park a blueprint for sustainable living.
If there is a risk, it is that collectively we miss this opportunity and that this site is seen as a simple property transaction. It is much bigger than this and, for certain, it will not come round again.