The publication of a study commissioned by the Government Office for Science (GOS) earlier this year highlighted the East of England as a hotspot for biotechnology adoption and commercialisation. The study titled ‘Life Sciences Beyond Human Health – A report on the UK’s industrial biotechnology sector’ identified Norwich Research Park, the Quadram Institute, John Innes Centre and the Earlham Institute as one of the 12 ‘modern industrial biotechnology’ clusters around the UK.

The East, and specifically Norwich Research Park, is gaining global recognition as a world-leading centre for research and science in the area of modern industrial biotechnology, which encompasses those life sciences outside of human health. The report highlighted that the UK may have a competitive advantage in this field in the areas of agribiotech, food & drink, commercial genomics for well-being, animal health and the underpinning technologies and platforms.

The East region’s strong life sciences base offers a window of opportunity to establish technological leadership and capture economic and societal value from modern industrial biotechnology. This opportunity is supported by a thriving ecosystem of technical service firms, suppliers and specialist equipment vendors that already exists and operates successfully.

Norwich Research Park is home to many of the institutions, researchers and emerging companies operating in these sectors. Four world-leading research institutes are based there – the John Innes Centre, The Sainsbury Laboratory, the Earlham Institute and the Quadram Institute. Alongside these, on the same campus, are the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, an important teaching and research hospital and the University of East Anglia (UEA), well known for its work on climate change and food research. This unique mix of institutions on the same site leads to a huge amount of cross-organisational collaboration, often generating significant breakthroughs.

A good indication of the quality and longevity of the research being carried out at Norwich Research Park is the level of investment being made into the institutes based there.

Earlier this year, two significant announcements were made, committing long-term funding to the institutes on the Park. The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), part of UKRI, announced combined funding of £163.9m over the next five year for the Earlham Institute, John Innes Centre and Quadram Institute to support their cutting-edge science. This equates to more than 40% of the BBSRC’s total investment into its UK strategic research institutes.

In addition, the John Innes Centre and The Sainsbury Laboratory will receive £317.7m over the next seven years, from the UKRI Infrastructure Fund, to develop their sites with new facilities, equipment and resources that are essential for researchers and innovators to carry out their ground-breaking work.

Investments of this scale give potential  investors confidence that it is a location worth considering. Norwich Research Park already has 30 companies on site and offers new companies virtual tenancies and has modern office and lab facilities for those wanting to take physical space to start-up and grow. And, under its Enterprise Strategy, it is now building a healthy pipeline of spin-out and start-up companies.

Roz bird, CEO of Anglia Innovation Partnership LLP, the science park management organisation of Norwich Research Park, said, “We are seeing a number of new companies emerging from the institutes on our campus, which can be taken as credible evidence that it really is a great place to start a business. This, in turn, will attract more people, businesses and investors to the Park. From my experience, if you can bring people together you will have a much better chance of coming up with great ideas that have serious commercial potential. We are confident that we have all of the ingredients necessary to be ‘the place to be’ for innovation, ideas and new businesses.

“We have created an eco-system in place that builds community, knowledge transfer and collaboration. The unique cluster of four world-leading research institutes, a teaching hospital and highly acclaimed university located here means that collaboration across organisations is just part of their DNA and that, in turn, leads to new ideas being developed especially in the fields of food biotech, agri-biotech, modern industrial biotechnology and non-traditional drug discovery.

“In addition, we have the correct infrastructure and facilities in place, such as high quality lab and office space, good communications links and appropriate technology as well as available land to build on.

“We have also built a programme for spin-outs and start-ups to access pre-seed and seed funding to make them ‘investment ready’ and provided platforms to introduce them to angel and corporate investors.”

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