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£163.9m funding boost to world-leading research institutes at Norwich Research Park

26 May 2023

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The Earlham Institute, John Innes Centre and Quadram Institute will receive a combined £163.9m in funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), part of UKRI, to support the cutting-edge science they are undertaking at Norwich Research Park.

The 5-year investment announced today by George Freeman, Minister of State at the Department of Science, Innovation and Technology, cements the region’s position as a world-leader in life science research, innovation and training – particularly in plant science, food science, microbiology and genomics.

The funding for the three institutes is part of a wider investment by the BBSRC into their strategic research institutes and infrastructure across the UK that totals more than £376m for 2023-2028. The three institutes at Norwich Research Park have attracted more than 40% of the total investment announced today.

As the UK’s major public funder of bioscience research and innovation, the BBSRC is responsible for the long-term investment of substantial public funds in these strategically supported research institutes.

The Earlham Institute receives £31.4m for two new strategic programmes of research into Cellular Genomics and Decoding Biodiversity.

The Cellular Genomics research programme will explore the origins and impact of genomic variation in healthy cells, helping to understand how these natural differences affect the ageing process and the response to changes in the environment.

The Decoding Biodiversity programme will develop tools and resources to turn all of the genomes being sequenced around the world into new knowledge and discoveries. From finding genes that make plants or animals more resilient to developing indicators for healthy soils, it will help scientists and society to understand, benefit from, and protect life on Earth.

Professor Neil Hall, Earlham Institute Director, said: “This significant investment allows us to continue delivering world-leading research in genomics and data science. We’re embarking on an incredibly ambitious, highly-collaborative, and multidisciplinary programme of research we believe will be transformative for the field of life science – as well as benefiting global society in the long term.”

The John Innes Centre receives £76.6m for four strategic programmes to enable research across plant and microbial science, from unlocking the remarkable and under-exploited biosynthetic capabilities of plants and microbes, through to the understanding and delivery of sustainable, resilient and robust high-yielding crops.

All four programmes – Delivering Sustainable Wheat, Building Robustness in Crops, Harnessing Biosynthesis for Sustainable Food and Health and Advancing Plant Health – aim to build a more sustainable future, through the power of plant and microbial science, informing solutions to meet the era-defining challenges of feeding the world, combating global health threats and climate changes. They will be delivered through partnerships or consortiums with other research institutes, universities or with industry collaborators.

Professor Graham Moore, Director of the John Innes Centre said, “This welcome strategic investment will enable us to continue our research and to invest in delivering solutions that contribute to a more secure and sustainable future. In particular, the challenges of transitioning to net-zero agriculture, improving public health and mitigating the effects of climate change on food security, are all nationally important priorities that the John Innes Centre, our partners at the Norwich Research Park and from across the UK, can have a real-world impact on, with our world-leading research and innovation.”

Quadram Institute Bioscience receives £55.9 million for research programmes focused on delivering healthier lives through innovation in gut health, microbiology and food. The Food, Microbiome and Health programme studies how changes in plant food structure and composition can improve the release of nutrients and promote colonisation and resilience of health-promoting gut microbes.

The Microbes and Food Safety programme develops knowledge of foodborne pathogens and their ability to colonise and persist on surfaces and is being used to predict potential food safety issues. The programme also focuses on the role of microbes in food spoilage and understanding E.coli as an indicator organism of antimicrobial resistance.

Professor Ian Charles, Director of Quadram Institute Bioscience, said: “This latest investment from BBSRC enables us to focus on delivering science programmes to promote human health and help tackle real-world global problems such as food spoilage and the hidden hunger caused by deficiencies in key micronutrients essential for health.”

The BBSRC funding also supports the National Bioscience Research Infrastructures (NBRIs), the UK’s leading provider of new and continuously updated food and nutrition data, tools and services vital for public health, research and innovation, which both the John Innes Centre and Quadram Institute benefit from.

Funding also includes research infrastructure and core support, including operational costs that enable their research to deliver maximum impact. BBSRC has also provided partnership funding to support the delivery of strategic programme grants.

Roz Bird, CEO of Anglia Innovation Partnership LLP, the organisation that runs Norwich Research Park, said, “This is great news for Norwich Research Park. This investment underlines the strategic importance, and potential future contribution, of this science park campus, to modern industrial biotechnology, in the UK. The research in agribiotech, food biotech and industrial biotech, taking place, creates opportunities for collaborations that will translate the science into tangible solutions that can help improve the lives of people around the world.

“We have established a growing sense of community on the campus, and we are starting to build a pipeline of next generation companies which have either emerged from the research conducted on the campus or from entrepreneurs looking for collaborations and partnerships. Our aim is to maximise the research activity taking place through our campus-wide enterprise strategy, and business development activity, creating a wide range of jobs, at the park campus, and contributing to the local, regional and national economy.”

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