Norwich Research Park: Supporting Science Research in East Anglia

The Norwich Research Park, based in East Anglia, is one of the UK Innovation & Science Seed Fund’s four campus research partners. Funded by the BBSRC, the Norwich Research Park is one of Europe’s’ leading centres for food, health and environmental research, with an annual research spend of over £100 million.

Companies Based at the Research Park

The park is home to around 30 science and IT innovation-based businesses (see case study) and over 11,000 people (including 2700 scientists) in:

  • Pharmaceuticals, biotechnology and healthcare
  • Food and nutrition
  • Agricultural biotechnology and crop breeding
  • Diagnostics, devices and medical technologies
  • Clean-tech and low carbon energy
  • Computing and information technology

UKI2S’ most recent investment from the Norwich Research Park is Spectral Edge, a company based on the work carried out by Prof. Graham Finlayson at the University of East Anglia. Spectral Edge is an image reconstruction company, focusing on colour blindness. This condition affects close to one in ten of the male population, and bars individuals from certain professions such as pilot or pharmacist. There is increasing evidence that the education of colour-blind children suffers because of the increasing use of colour in classroom materials, but it is not recognised in the UK as a medical condition.

Spectral Edge’s approach to colour blindness is through image processing that enables greater separation of red and green, but does not affect the appearance of the image to a ‘colour-normal’ viewer.

UKI2S’ Mark White commented that: “we were very excited by UEA’s image processing expertise and the prospect of working with an academic of Prof. Finlayson’s calibre who already has a track record of commercialising his work. We think that Spectral Edge has a huge opportunity to address a currently unmet need in both consumer electronics and in education.”

On the life sciences side, Procarta Biosystems, headquartered in the Norwich Bioincubator, is a 2007 spinout from the John Innes Centre and Plant Bioscience Limited (PBL). Funded by the UK Innovation & Science Seed Fund and Iceni Seedcorn fund, Procarta’s focus is on creating antibiotics based on bacterial genome sequences. The company’s ‘Snare’ technology could be used as a fast response to outbreaks of resistant or difficult-to-treat infections, and its development is also supported by EU grants.

Facilities at the Norwich Research Park

Norwich Research Park was created as a partnership between:

At the centre of the Norwich Research Park is Centrum, the hub building. Opened in July 2014, this £11.5 million building houses the business centre, as well as laboratory and office space, and links to the John Innes Conference Centre.

The Norwich BioIncubator, based at the John Innes Centre, provides start up companies with access to laboratory and office space, along with support services and communal facilities, such as a meeting room and support laboratory.

The Innovation Centre also provides office and laboratory units for a range of companies, from food and biopharma companies (such as Procarta Biosystems – see case study), through IT and software development, to clean energy and sustainable raw materials.

The research park also includes a Virtual Technology Centre, which is home to pooled scientific technology platforms from research organisations on the park, which aims to improve access for both academia and industry.

Plans for the Future

The 230-hectare park includes 52 hectares of land set aside for companies that require purpose-built facilities.

Plans for the future for the Norwich Research Park include a £5 million molecular farming facility based on research coming out of the John Innes Centre, aiming to create high value compounds from plants. Other projects include an £8 million near-zero carbon Enterprise Centre, which will be built using natural materials. This will include teaching and learning facilities, workspace for local companies, and an early-stage incubator for University of East Anglia graduates and research park staff to start their own businesses.