Roz Bird, chief executive of Anglia Innovation Partnership LLP, tells Bethany Wales from the Eastern Daily Press what she’s achieved in her first 12 months at one of Europe’s most impressive research clusters.
What was your priority going into this job?
The big priorities were finding companies that would be a good fit for the park, and securing funding for the development of new buildings to allow that growth.
We’ve got 30 companies here currently, and 100,000 sq. ft worth of buildings, but we also have 1.6 million sq. ft of planning permission. That means we could go from 30 companies to around 200, and two or three buildings to 50.
Job number one was making sure people understand the good things we can offer companies, and understanding where those compatible companies are now. The second thing was working out how to attract long term patient capital, like a pension fund, to fund the speculative development of new buildings.
How did you approach that?
The key thing was working out how to explain what we have going on here in a simple way. I spent the Christmas break making a power point slide trying to summarise how it all works, and found that our research covers five global markets: agribiotech, food biotech, industrial biotech, and non-traditional drug discovery. That’s very unique.
From there I worked out I needed to go to where these four global markets convene, listen to who’s already there, what they’re working on, and what do they need, and what could we offer of value to them.
What challenges have you come up against?
There’s no Achilles heel here. There’s a full range of accommodation, the planning system works, we’ve got a good transport network, there are great nurseries on site.
The challenge is literally just that people don’t realise what we do, and that impacts homegrown talent as well as attracting people from further afield.
How are you home growing more talent?
The month I joined we launched our campus-wide , which is basically a at the Park to market test their ideas and get business advice from experts.
Commercialisation is one of the quickest ways to maximise the potential of research for society, so we encouraged anyone with an idea of how to turn their research into a business to come forward, and the results have surprised us.
Nineteen groups started working together using to explore their ideas, and some of those are now coming to the stage where they’re about to get confirmation of their pre-seed funding.
What do the next 12 months have in store for the Park?
With the for the next generation infrastructure, you’ll see physical change as those buildings start to appear. Hopefully we’ll have an investment partner so we can further that work. That will allow the companies we’ve already got to move out of the innovation centre, which is a small flexible lab and office space, making room for those smaller start-ups to move in. There should also be some announcements about more seed funding and growth funds, going from this good starting point, and attracting more venture capital in to support that too.
This news feature was written by Bethany Wells from the Eastern Daily Press and can be found on the EDP website here.