The John Innes Centre
The John Innes Centre (JIC) is an independent, internationally renowned bioscience research centre in plant science and microbiology. JIC's unique blend of research spans fundamental science through to strategic applications and practical outcomes.
JIC's mission is to advance the scientific understanding of plants and microbes and to apply this knowledge for the benefit of society and the environment through research, knowledge exchange, commercialisation and training.
JIC's research focuses on the growth underpinning yield in plants, biotic interactions of plants, wheat improvement, and metabolism of plants and microbes. A central principle of JIC's research is the use of genetics, continuing the long and prestigious history of genetics at the JIC to:
- Translate research in the areas of yield and quality in crop plants, and the use of microbial and plant products to promote human health and the use of plants and microbes in biotechnology
- Use novel genetic approaches to generate new varieties and strains of plants and microbes that can be used to further knowledge and to enhance productive and biotechnological capacity
- Apply modern biotechnology to agriculture in an environmentally sustainable context
- Use a wide range of contemporary approaches to develop dialogue with policy makers and the public
- Train the scientific leaders of the future in a broad range of scientific and transferable skills
JIC wins most of its funding to support research in open competition from funding agencies in the UK and worldwide. More than 50% of JIC's income is from UK government sources, with the majority from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC); charities and the EU Framework science programmes are the other largest sources of income. JIC actively engages with industry and supports knowledge exchange and commercialisation through collaborative and sponsored research.
The expertise of JIC scientists has made important contributions to industry and society in the UK and worldwide. These include the discovery and application of conserved gene order in grasses for cereal improvement; characterisation of the dominant dwarfing phenotype that underpins improved wheat crop productivity; the understanding and application of flowering time; contributing to the first sequencing of a plant genome and the development of genomic systems for exploiting Streptomyces, the principal source of anti-infectives for human health. It has been independently estimated that JIC research contributes as much as £3.4Bn to the global economy in the field of wheat production alone.
JIC is a dynamic, international community of about 360 scientists and post-graduate students; it's reputation for scientific excellence attracts some of the best scientists and brightest students from around the world. JIC is committed to training of the next generations of scientists. Activity includes events for locally 'gifted and talented' school-students, an undergraduate summer school (joint with The Sainsbury Laboratory, TSL) that gives students the unique opportunity to spend the summer on site, three different routes to a PhD including the prestigious rotation studentships, followed by post-doctoral training fellowships, career progression and independent fellowships.
JIC's strategy is to ensure world leading research and to develop opportunities for innovative and long-term research in plant and microbial sciences; it's strategic priorities are aligned with the BBSRC's remit to focus on food security, health ageing and industrial biotechnology.
Enabling themes and technology platforms
JIC's scientific advances incorporate novel approaches to computational and systems biology and bioinformatics. Facilities include a large bioimaging facility featuring state-of-the-art electron and confocal microscopes; an associated data management system for digital image processing (OMERO); metabolomics by HPLC and mass spectrometry specialising in natural product chemistry; proteomics using an Orbitrap QTOF purchased with TSL for sensitive quantitative mass determinations; glycomics for the synthesis and analysis of novel carbohydrates; TILLING (supported by RevGen as a national resource) and genotyping platforms for DNA analysis; and the BRACT transformation service (barley, wheat, Brachypodium, Brassicas, a national resource) and Microarrays (Affymetrix for Arabidopsis and Brachypodium).
Business Development utilises JIC's international standing and alumni to foster research networks and commercial links in key areas of economic development such as China, India, SE Asia and Latin America. On site, John Innes Enterprises offers commercial access to a range of technical services, including crop plant transformation (BRACT), mutation detection in crops (RevGenUK), microbial natural product technology (Streptech) and Entomology. iDNA Genetics, a JIC-owned company, provides genotyping services to academia and industry.
The JIC occupies 48,214m2 of land on the outskirts of Norwich in eastern England and maintains a broad range of state-of-the-art facilities and equipment, including specialised analytical laboratories, conventional and containment glasshouse and controlled environment suites. The centre hosts a major global resource for crop plant genetic resources, including some of the largest wheat, barley, oat and pea collections in the world. The Insectary provides contemporary resources for insect propagation and research.
The site and majority of buildings are owned by the John Innes Foundation (JIF). Major capital projects that have been completed in the last five years include the Arabidopsis barn, and a Training Suite which provides a resource for integrated training in multidisciplinary biology. As well as a laboratory, there is a networked IT suite and lecture theatre and breakout areas for more informal discussion. A Data Centre and its 1Gb JANET connection provides the Institutes on-site with improved capacity to support genomics, bioinformatics and modelling. A spatial plan for the site envisages the progressive creation of a new Science Park.
JIC operates field trial plots to support crop genetics programmes on the main site and at the nearby Church Farm, owned by JIF. Using BBSRC funding, a secure field trial area has been created on the main site for assessing GM traits.
Norwich Research Park (NRP)
JIC is located on the NRP, one of Europe's largest single-site concentrations of research in health, food and environmental sciences. The scientific partners on the NRP are JIC, The Genome Analysis Centre, TSL, Institute of Food Research, the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital and the University of East Anglia. Together the partners employ over 2,700 researchers within a total workforce of more than 12,000. The Norwich BioIncubator and the new NRP Innovation Centre provide further scientific integration by attracting research-based companies to the Park.
Alliances within the NRP broaden JIC's expertise and capabilities, and maintain critical mass in the breadth of disciplines and academic activities needed to contribute to global strategic objectives in food security, human health and living with environmental change. Joint appointments, cross-funded studentships and the sharing of resources within a joint planning network are key strategies for maintaining a thriving and attractive research community.