Discovery Park Enterprise Zone, which is celebrating its second anniversary, is a role model for the rest of the UK, according to a Government minister.
Greg Clark, Minister for Universities and Science, and Tunbridge Wells MP, joined more than 300 guests at the rapidly growing Sandwich facility to mark the occasion.
Discovery Park was created on July 31, 2012, after pharmaceutical giant Pfizer announced it would be withdrawing from the 200-acre site. Private consortium Discovery Park Limited bought the site.
Since then, the science and technology-led park has created more than 1,400 jobs, including 600 still employed by Pfizer, and attracted nearly 100 businesses. It is on course to achieve 3,000 jobs by 2017.
The park has gained substantial public and private sector funding, and Enterprise Zone status offering financial incentives to incoming businesses.
Mr Clark said: “When you think back to the depths of despair everyone felt when the initial announcement came, to get to the point where on present trends, there will be more people working here than were employed at the time is a phenomenal achievement.”
He hailed the project as a “national exemplar” of national and local government and the private sector working together to make it work. “”This should be broadcast nationally as a role model for other places.”
Discovery Park tenant Peakdale Molecular, a leading UK-based provider of drug discovery services to the pharmaceutical, biotech, diagnostics and materials science sectors, has been on the site since 2010.
Director Matt Tozer said the decision to relocate from the North East to the park had marked “a truly transformative period” in the firm’s history.
It has recently joined a larger business Concept Life Sciences. “When they saw the facilities here, they immediately recognized Discovery Park as the jewel in the crown of Concept Life Sciences,” Mr Tozer said.
Cllr Paul Watkins, leader of Dover council, was delighted that Pfizer had retained a significant presence at Discovery Park. “They are joined by many other companies, large and small, local, national and international. They all call Discovery Park home.”
Cllr Paul Carter, leader of Kent County Council, thanked the shareholders for having the courage to invest in the project.
Paul Barber, managing director of Discovery Park Limited, said: “What we’ve achieved so far is just the beginning of the journey. We don’t want to be a successful science and technology-led business park in East Kent, we want it to be one of the best in the world.”
Anna Stone, Leasing Manager at Discovery Park, has been in post since the park’s new beginning. Speaking of her experience, she said: “Before the ink had even dried on the paperwork, I was en-route to Kent, having hopped on a train from my hometown of Teesside. I was excited about the new challenges that were ahead and about realising the high potential of Discovery Park and I think we’ve made significant developments since that day.”
The sun shone brightly on Discovery Park for the birthday celebrations, with live music, a “bubble-ologist” who impressed with his bubble-making skills, fairground games like hoopla and a coconut shy, and a barbecue on a sizzling summer afternoon.
Guests also included staff from Discovery Park, tenants, dignitaries and members of local and community groups.