Today’s Norwich Research Park is a busy hub of many different organisations, including the core partner organisations that make up the park including the John Innes Centre, The Sainsbury Laboratory, Earlham Institute, Quadram Institute, the University of East Anglia and the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. We need to look at the history of our partners to fully understand the journey that led to the park as it is today.
It starts a long time ago, back in 1772…
The Norfolk and Norwich Hospital first opened its doors all the way back in July 1772, over 250 years ago! At first it only had 3 outpatients and the first matron was appointed on a salary of £15 per year!
The hospital continued to grow, and in 1877 it was agreed that a new building would be constructed, though this would still not be the same at today’s location.
The very earliest form of what is now the Quadram Institute was founded in 1903 – the Long Ashton Research Station. The station was an agricultural and horticultural government-funded research centre for the cider industry.
In 1904 London property developer and philanthropist John Innes died. His will instructed that his fortune should be used to start a horticultural school and the John Innes Charity was formed. This is now one of the park’s key partners, the John Innes Foundation.
In 1905 a Cambridge Biologist called William Bateson coined the term ‘Genetics’ in a letter, and then later introduced it in public at the Third International Conference on Hybridisation and Plant Breeding in 1906.
In 1910 the John Innes Horticultural Institution was founded with a research emphasis on plant genetics. Professor William Bateson was the first director until he died in 1926.
Dorothy Cayley, John Innes mycologist, showed that ‘breaking’ in tulips is caused by a transmissible virus spread by aphids and published the work in the ‘Annals of Applied Biology’ in 1928.
Dr Rose Scott-Moncrieff formed one of the very first teams working on ‘biochemical genetics’. She went on to publish a series of ground-breaking papers in the 1930s identifying some of the enzymes in the biochemical pathways of pigment biosynthesis in flowering plants
The University of East Anglia was opened in 1963. Biological Sciences and English Studies welcome the first student cohort to UEA. The famous Ziggurats were completed in 1967.
The Long Ashton Research Station became the Low Temperature Research Station (LTRS) in 1922, but was situated in Cambridge. It was in 1966 that the LTRS became the Food Research Institute (FRI) after a new building was completed on Colney Lane in Norwich.
Originally part of Geography, the Climatic Research Unit at UEA opens in 1972 as its own subject. Over the years, the CRU has led the way, pioneering world-class research across many aspects of climate science.
The first staff were employed at The Sainsbury Laboratory in 1987 and the current lab building alongside the John Innes Centre was completed in 1989.
The Norwich research park was officially launched in 1992 when it comprised the schools of Biological and Chemical Sciences at the UEA, the John Innes Centre, IFR Norwich, the MAFF’s Food Science Laboratory and the British Sugar Technical Centre.
In April 1994 the John Innes Centre was created from the merger of the John Innes Institute, the Cambridge Laboratory, and the Nitrogen Fixation Laboratory, fulfilling the Agriculture and Food Research Council’s policy of creating larger interdisciplinary centres.
An international research group of over 200 scientists, from 35 laboratories, published the first complete genome. Specifically the DNA sequence for chromosomes 2 and 4 of the tiny weed Arabidopsis thaliana (thale cress).
The Sportspark opens its doors to the public on 1 September 2000, bringing international sporting facilities to Norwich. The Tyndall Centre was also founded in 2000 to conduct cutting edge climate research at a number of universities, including the UEA.
Professor Cathie Martin, Dr Eugenio Butelli and colleagues made a significant breakthrough when they expressed genes from snapdragon (Antirrhinum) in tomatoes to grow genetically modified purple tomatoes with enhanced levels of anthocyanins.
The Genome Analysis Centre (TGAC) founded in July 2009 by BBSRC, EEDA, NCityC, NcountyC, SNC and Greater Norwich development partnership. The Sainsbury Laboratory also formed a research partnership with the Two Blades Foundation, which enabled 2Blades to operate an applied research program within The Sainsbury Laboratory.
Following the formation of Anglia Innovation Partnership by the major organisations on the park in 2012, the Centrum building opened in 2014 to provide a fully supported hub for the business and research community on the park containing high quality offices and laboratories.
A group at the John Innes Centre used non-GM methods to develop a new high-protein pea, that can be absorbed more fully when eaten by humans, poultry or livestock. The UEA also opened the Enterprise Centre, the most renewable building in Europe, as a home for businesses on the campus. The Bob Champion Research and Education building also opened providing state-of-the-art laboratories for researchers to explore new treatments.
In June 2016, Earlham Institute completed a rebranding project which saw the name transition from The Genome Analysis Centre (TGAC) to Earlham Institute (EI).
In 2017 the Earlham Institute and the John Innes Centre form a major component of the national Designing Future Wheat programme, which aims to develop the next generation of key traits in wheat to ensure we can produce enough wheat in the future to feed our rapidly growing population.
In 2018 the Endoscopy Centre and Clinical Research Facility open in the Quadram Institute Building. The following year 300 research staff also move into the new state-of-the-art building. Also in 2018 a complete sequence of the wheat genome was published in a paper authored by more than 200 scientists from 73 research institutions in 20 countries – including the John Innes Centre and the Earlham Institute.
In 2020 the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world and the park launched a large response, including manufacturing face shields, sequencing covid genomes and developing testing.
The £5m Ella May Barnes building, providing state-of-the-art laboratories and workspace at Norwich Research Park, is completed and handed to South Norfolk Council for management. The UEA is also recognised by the REF framework as having world-leading research.
In 2022 Anglia Innovation Partnership unveils a new enterprise strategy including access to funding to support the capture and development of new business ideas from the research on the park.