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Minister opens landmark new Centrum building at Norwich Research Park

Minister opens landmark new Centrum building at Norwich Research Park - 23 July 2014. Copyright: Steve Wright Photography Ltd

Minister for Life Sciences George Freeman has opened a landmark new building in Norwich that will enable businesses to interact with the best scientific and research minds in areas such as food, health, energy and the environment. The new £11.5M Centrum building will be the heart of innovation and enterprise at the Norwich Research Park, a leading hub of life science innovation that is undergoing expansion to bring jobs and major investment to the region.

Minister for Life Sciences George Freeman. Copyright: Steve Wright Photography Ltd
Minister for Life Sciences George Freeman. Copyright: Steve Wright Photography Ltd

Life Sciences Minister George Freeman said: "The Government's continued investment in Norwich Research Park is helping to create and support a first-class innovation hub in the East of England based on world-leading bioscience. The science community will now be able to share access to this unique and specialist facility that will help to drive growth, foster innovation and support the Norwich, Norfolk and East Anglia life science cluster to create the jobs and businesses of tomorrow."

The Minister also opened the Norwich Research Park Virtual Technology Centre, where pooled scientific technology platforms from research organisations on the Park will enable ease of access for academics and businesses alike.

During the visit, the Minister heard of plans for a £5M molecular farming facility. It will establish Norwich as a leading international centre for research and development in the use of plants to produce high value compounds. The molecular farming facility is being developed from inventions made at the John Innes Centre by Prof George Lomonossoff and Dr Frank Sainsbury, BBSRC Innovators of the Year in 2012, and will make the technology and campus capability accessible to all, including commercial companies in the pharmaceutical and industrial biotechnology sectors, as well as academics from outside of the Park.

The Centrum building, Virtual Technology Centre and future molecular farming facility are part of a substantial £26M project funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) to develop a thriving research and innovation campus, supporting start-up, early-stage companies and attracting inward investment from multinational corporate organisations involved in science and technology.

The long-term public investment in the Park forms part of a strategy to invest in research and innovation campuses across the UK to create thriving innovation environments that maximise economic growth and impact from the UK's world-leading bioscientists.

Minister opens landmark new Centrum building at Norwich Research Park - 23 July 2014. Copyright: Steve Wright Photography Ltd
BBSRC Chief Executive Professor Jackie Hunter, Minister for Life Sciences George Freeman, Chief Executive Officer of Norwich Research Park Dr Sally Ann Forsyth, Norwich Research Park Project Director Alan Giles. Copyright: Steve Wright Photography Ltd

Professor Jackie Hunter, BBSRC Chief Executive, said: "BBSRC's investment in the campus is providing state-of-the-art-facilities and enabling bioscience companies to flourish. Centrum will offer high quality interaction space where innovative businesses and academics can meet. This is a crucial step in realising our ambition for the park to be a world-class hub for research and development, delivering innovation from the research base and generating economic growth and jobs."

Dr Sally Ann Forsyth, Chief Executive Officer for Norwich Research Park said: "With the support of the BBSRC we have been able to create Centrum, a facility that embodies innovation, knowledge exchange and collaboration. We are committed to developing UK life science both here and within the international arena and our development plans for the Park, of which Centrum is a major element, will all contribute to this wider objective of bringing the UK's expertise in the life sciences sector to the fore.

The investment in Centrum will help to create and nurture new companies and jobs based on world-leading life science and ancillary services, in addition to providing a fully supported central hub for the research and business community."

Centrum offers flexible laboratory and office accommodation with a business centre, meeting rooms, restaurant and café. As well as being a hub building for the Park and regions businesses, it will provide commercial space for early-stage, start-up companies in the appropriate sectors looking to locate onto the Park. It will provide a unique opportunity to work alongside world-leading researchers.


About the Norwich Research Park development

The Norwich Research Park is a partnership between the University of East Anglia, the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, four independent world-renowned research institutes namely the John Innes Centre, Institute of Food Research and The Genome Analysis Centre (all strategically funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)) and The Sainsbury Laboratory linked to the Gatsby Charitable Foundation. The BBSRC is itself a partner as is the John Innes Foundation.

The vision of the Norwich Research Park partners and local government stakeholders is to develop a thriving science and innovation business park over the next decade by supporting spin-out and start-up companies and through attracting inward investment from large corporate organisations involved in science and technology. The Norwich Research Park is home to over 30 science and IT based businesses.

With over 12,000 people including 3,000 researchers and clinicians, Norwich Research Park is one of Europe's leading centres for research in food, health and the environment.

About the Molecular Farming facility

The Molecular farming facility is a partnership between BBSRC, Norwich Research Park LLP, the John Innes Centre (JIC) and Plant Bioscience Limited (PBL)

Molecular Farming is a JIC innovation that enables proteins to be produced much more rapidly and at higher levels in plants than ever before. This is revolutionising the use of plants as bioreactors and will help make plant-produced proteins a commercial reality. The technology has been patented by PBL, the JIC and BBSRC-owned technology transfer company (Plant Biosciences Limited), and commercial licences are available.

About the Virtual Technology Centre

The research institutions across the Norwich Research Park (1) have placed a wide range of world-class research facilities, offering state-of-the-art technologies, into a single Virtual Technologies Centre. This is presented through a web portal (2) that provides access to clusters of similar facilities (e.g. Bioimaging).

The operation of these shared research facilities is overseen by the Park's Research Facilities Coordination Committee, chaired by Dr Steve Rawsthorne of the John Innes Centre, drawing on organisational representation from senior science and finance staff and Norwich Research Partners LLP. This Committee has enabled a framework of equipment sharing that accommodates the need for individual institutional science programmes and research equipment to change while optimising use, enabling shared purchasing and opening up wider access. These actions embrace a key recommendation of the Wakeham review of efficiencies in UK HEIs (3). This and the further investment by BBSRC over a two year period for business development is aimed to make the best use of the excellent research technologies for academics across the Norwich Research Park and, importantly, for wider commercial users.

  1. John Innes Centre, Institute of Food Research, The Genome Analysis Centre, The Sainsbury Laboratory, University of East Anglia, Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals
  3. Financial Sustainability and Efficiency in Full Economic Costing of Research in UK Higher Education Institutions. Report of RCUK/UUK Task Group, Chair: Sir William Wakeham. Recommendation 7. "We consider that the greater intensity of utilisation of assets by HEIs should be encouraged, particularly the sharing of research equipment and facilities."

Tags: bioeconomy commercialisation industry innovation research facilities BBSRC press release