The Department for Science, Innovation and Technology published the National Vision for Engineering Biology in December and it was great to see Norwich Research Park highlighted as a leading location in this sector.
But what is engineering biology? Engineering biology is when scientists harness our understanding of the biological systems for industrial and economic benefit. It includes using knowledge of synthetic biology and biotechnology approaches like gene editing to ‘re-programme’ organisms like microbes and plants to manufacture useful products.
At Norwich Research Park, a lot of the research and innovation on campus can be counted as engineering biology. With the four research institutes, university, hospital and business community the park is a dense research cluster with a lot of research groups. These groups are focusing on tackling issues like food security, climate change, healthy ageing by researching the genes of plants and microbes and how they work.
The vision states, “The accelerating pace of science and technology breakthroughs is creating huge opportunities for the UK as a global hub of R&D, innovative start-ups, pro-growth regulation and industrial adoption. The world urgently needs transformational innovations to tackle the global challenge of sustainable economic development. With growing pressure on global resources, and increasingly competitive geopolitics and supply chains, the UK’s science and technology strengths are increasingly key to our economic security and resilience.”
Norwich is mentioned in the vision, “The UK’s strengths can be seen in clusters across the country, from Norwich to Bristol to Edinburgh. These strengths are built around academic and industrial hubs, often enabled by local infrastructure like biofoundries.” Two companies located on Norwich Research Park were also mentioned, Tropic and Colorifix, in the diagram copied below.
Figure 1: illustration of engineering biology’s areas of application, with some key UK firms highlighted.
If you’re interested in engineering biology, you can read the whole vision here.