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Discover Norwich Research Park businesses making their mark

02 April 2024

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Norwich Research Park is home to a growing community of spin-out businesses that have emerged from research being undertaken at one of the six partner institutions on its campus.

With the Earlham Institute, Quadram Institute, John Innes Centre, The Sainsbury Laboratory, University of East Anglia (UEA) and the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH) all conducting ground-breaking research into food biotech, agritech, modern industrial biotechnology and climate change, it is perhaps not surprising that so many business ideas are emerging.

But turning a business idea into a credible company requires lot of work and support. This is where the Enterprise Strategy from Anglia Innovation Partnership, the campus management company at Norwich Research Park, really makes a difference for fledgling spin-outs and start-ups.

Virtual tenancies

One of the key elements of the Enterprise Strategy is the ability for new companies to become virtual tenants, where they can use Norwich Research Park’s prestigious address but don’t have to rent office or laboratory space on a permanent basis.

A 12-month contract and a monthly fee entitles them to buy in services and use facilities such as office and laboratory space or meeting rooms on a pro rata basis.

Virtual tenancies also offer other benefits that could help accelerate the growth of a business through things like access to pre-seed and seed funding, mentors, investors, networks and events, plus introductions to experts in their field like IP lawyers. This package of services helps to fast-track research into businesses.

Norwich Research Park’s virtual tenancy package has proved so attractive that it is now home to approximately 30 tenants operating in diverse markets, including:

Circadian – a global leader in the development of fatigue risk management systems and 24/7 workforce performance solutions for businesses that operate around the clock. It provides consulting expertise, research, training, products and software tools to help extended-hours operations to optimise employee performance and reduce the inherent risks, costs and liabilities of running a 24-hour operation.

Plant Intelligence – a business developing technology to simplify the monitoring and growth of virtually any plant. It aims to transform the UK into a nation of local growers by providing scalable, modular systems tailored to different markets. From simple smart monitors for consumers to fully automated growing environments for commercial growers, the modular approach allows anyone to cultivate healthy and diverse plants successfully.

Synoida – a bio-science start-up using the latest technology to provide allergy testing for pet animals. From just a couple of drops of blood, 101 distinct types of allergies can be identified – ensuring that pets and their owners receive precise results with the utmost care and minimal discomfort.

Funki Drinks – a pre-trading start-up developing a new range of soft drinks fortified with a proven fibre-blend that will benefit the gut and digestive health. Most people do not get the amount of fibre their bodies need, so it is addressing this issue with a drink that is low in sugar and always delicious.

Virilitas – a business developing a new home screening kit that will provide men with the first step towards understanding their fertility. A lot of men face fertility issues, but when it comes to infertility options treatments are mostly directed at women and up until now male fertility has been disregarded. Virilitas is integrating chemistry, design and engineering to create a dynamic ecosystem of interventions for male fertility designed to help people achieve parenthood.

Green Cormorant – a business creating sustainable soil and plant solutions that will help to enhance regenerative farming and gardening practices. Its Guanoboost SA organic fertilisers aim to improve soil and plant health that, in turn, will help to improve farmers’ profitability, yields and reverse environmental impacts whilst helping them to meet toughening farming standards and reducing their reliance on synthetics. It also aims to support making home gardening more sustainable.

Mick Pearce, CEO of Green Cormorant, said: “I’m really excited to be launching the GuanoBoost products to the UK this year. It’s a proven product that has a great following with home gardeners and farmers in South Africa, used successfully on a vast variety of plants and soil types. It reduces reliance on chemical inputs and pesticides and increases yields, plant grading and soil health.

“The Norwich Research Park virtual tenancy is fantastic. I’ve just joined and am looking forward to becoming further entrenched in its amazing community and developing close links with the research facilities and other innovative companies already on campus.”

Innovation Hothouse competition

In November, Norwich Research Park hosted the final of its Innovation Hothouse competition for start-up companies, where three 12-month virtual tenancies were awarded to the best three business ideas pitched to a panel of experts.

One of the winners was TraitSeq, a spinout from the Earlham Institute. It uses revolutionary AI-based machine-learning to predict complex agricultural traits that will help accelerate the development of new crops and products for breeders, agrochemical and gene-editing companies. TraitSeq enables the precise selection of varieties for specific locations and conditions that can lead to significant yield improvements and a much shorter product development timeline.

TraitSeq’s Josh Colmer said: “Winning a year’s free virtual tenancy at Norwich Research Park is proving to be enormously helpful in developing our product. Being able to rent office space at Centrum just when we need to is a big plus.

“We also benefit from networking, brand awareness, access to funding and collaboration opportunities – not to mention that having Norwich Research Park as our address will certainly help open doors for us.”

Enterprise House

But the Enterprise Strategy is not limited to virtual tenancies and competitions.

Enterprise House is a newly refurbished building on the Park’s campus that has been repurposed to accommodate new and growing companies that need permanent office space.

It offers a choice of different-sized offices on an ‘easy in, easy out’ basis – in other words, a small up front deposit, no long-term contracts and affordable rents that include essentials such as heat, light, insurance, parking and cleaning.

Enterprise House is a short walking distance from the Park’s institutions and facilities including the Centrum building, which has a ground floor meeting place and cafeteria. This makes it an ideal location for early stage development.

For those companies who outgrow Enterprise House, there are two new buildings planned for construction soon that will offer laboratory, office space and mid-tech accommodation.

One company that has recently moved into Enterprise House after completing a virtual tenancy is Grindeks Kalceks UK, a new UK subsidiary of the Grindecks Group.

Based in Europe, it is the leading pharmaceutical manufacturer in the Baltic States. Its products are sold in 100 countries globally, focusing on medications that treat cardiovascular, central nervous system, oncological, diabetic and skin diseases. Grindecks Kalceks UK took a virtual tenancy while establishing its UK operation and has now taken an office in Enterprise House.

Julie Worth, General Manager of the UK operation, said: “As the general manager of a new UK pharmaceutical company, I am proud to be leading our journey of growth and innovation within Norwich Research Park’s community. We have found a collaborative and inspiring space that supports both new and established businesses.

“The transition from a virtual presence to a physical tenant represents an important step forward. With the invaluable support of the Anglia Innovation Partnership team and the robust infrastructure at Norwich Research Park, we are poised to accelerate our growth in providing complex generic medicines to the NHS.”

Roz Bird, CEO of Anglia Innovation Partnership, said: “Recognising that there is a huge potential for brilliant business ideas to emerge from the research community at Norwich Research Park, we offer fledgling companies virtual tenancies to get them started.

“A virtual tenancy gives new start-ups a chance to raise their profile and meet with people who can really help them develop their high-growth business ideas. Once established, they are able to access flexible laboratory and office space as they grow.

“Virtual tenancies also come with access to expert advisers, top-class facilities, access to funding and ease of collaboration. It means we can nurture and fast-track ideas so that they become viable start-up or spin-out companies.

“We are embarking on an exciting period for Norwich Research Park where we can start planning new buildings that are likely to house high-growth businesses including spin-outs from our research community; spin-ins by companies that need to access our 30,000 strong talent pool and technology platforms; growing companies already on the campus; and a wide range of small and large companies, based globally, that operate in our key markets including agribiotech, food biotech, industrial biotechnology and med tech.”

To learn more about Norwich Research Park, or our enterprise activity, contact the AIP team or join us at our next Enterprise Tuesday showcase event.

Image: Enterprise House on Norwich Research Park.

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