Downtown Research and Development District
A rendering of buildings planned for the downtown Research and Development District. Courtesy of IQHQ/Transparent House

Premier biotech companies, investors, and industry talent from all over the world will descend upon San Diego’s waterfront for the first time in five years when the BIO International Convention returns live and in person this week.

In addition to serving as a sign that we are returning to normal, the BIO conference demonstrates the positive impact of the burgeoning biotech sector on San Diego’s economy, as does a transformative life science district that is taking shape just up the street — a development that is poised to make San Diego the next iconic life science market in the United States.

According to Biocom California’s 2021 Economic Impact Report, San Diego’s life sciences industry is part of a growth sector that is having a “profound impact” on our economy, employing 72,000 people and generating $27.7 billion in gross regional product and $47.8 billion in total business sales in 2020 alone. Additionally, the report found that life science was responsible for almost 178,000 jobs with total earnings of $16 billion in San Diego County alone.

With an 82% increase in life science employees over the last decade, San Diego is already the third largest life science market in the United States, and increasingly competitive with the likes of Boston and San Francisco. Given the rapid growth, San Diego is experiencing a dramatic increase in demand for new Class A office, lab space and scalable campus sites that can accommodate progressive, growing companies in a way that hasn’t been offered before.

To meet this growing demand, construction is well underway on the $1.6 billion San Diego Research and Development District — RaDD for short — on the city’s waterfront that will further energize the region’s economy and accommodate the continued growth of the life science industry. In addition to 1.7 million square feet of life science office, lab and retail space, the development will feature 1.5 acres of green, open space that will be accessible to the public.

RaDD will also create tens of thousands of jobs. In fact, the project is already creating union construction jobs right now that are spurring the local economy and helping to drive recovery from the pandemic. This first phase of RaDD, slated for completion in late 2023, is expected to accommodate at least 4,000 employees.

In addition to attracting new life science companies to the San Diego market that will employ local, diverse talent, the site’s retail and other amenities will offer additional employment opportunities. Further, the city’s prominent research institutions and leading colleges and universities means new employers will have access to a deep pipeline of diversified talent and resources.

We believe that biotech, pharmaceutical and life science companies will continue investing in downtown to get access to expanding clusters of young, diverse talent. There are over one million millennials in San Diego, which boasts the fifth highest millennial concentration in the nation. A recent demographic study from the Downtown San Diego Partnership found that the number of downtown residents working in the life science sector has more than tripled over the past two decades.

To support this dynamic and growing concentration of young workers, it is critical that we develop work environments that meet the changing needs and expectations of labor. This has been reinforced by the shifts we’ve seen throughout the pandemic, which has made it clear that both tenants and talent want dynamic districts and working environments as companies return to working in person.

As noted in the Downtown Partnership study, young professionals living in downtown with high paying jobs value walkability and access to lifestyle amenities. The ability to build more complete communities depends on our ability to attract people to both live and work in the market. Therefore, developing premier districts like RaDD will spark and drive sustained growth in San Diego’s downtown by drawing top employers and employees to scalable campuses that feature easy access to transit, housing, dining, and top amenities.

As the 11,000 attendees from over 3,000 companies from across the globe visit and walk the streets of San Diego this week, they will see first-hand what we all know — San Diego is the top market in which to live, work and play — it also has access to premier talent, cutting-edge amenities and offers a high quality of life.

In addition to embracing the many benefits that live and in-person events have to offer, BIO attendees will enjoy sharing in the transformation of our waterfront — a transformation that will propel the vital life science industry while spurring additional development and fueling positive change and growth in downtown San Diego.

Tracy Murphy is the president and co-founder of IQHQ. Joseph Panetta is president and CEO of Biocom California.