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Norwich Research Park’s enterprise activity is supporting businesses to grow

13 July 2023

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Anglia Innovation Partnership LLP, the organisation that runs Norwich Research Park, is creating a pipeline of emerging companies on its campus by delivering an effective enterprise programme of activities including events, access to funding and mentoring.

Norwich Research Park is already home to more than 30 companies. A number of them are high-growth businesses that have raised significant investment, increased their workforces and are scaling up their customer operations.

Many of the new businesses to emerge have spun-out of the institutions on the Park, translating their science breakthroughs into fully functioning businesses.

In June, Anglia Innovation Partnership held its second enterprise event of the year to showcase the research and commercialisation activity it offers. Dubbed ‘Enterprise Tuesday’, it featured presentations from many of the Park’s entrepreneurial researchers and ground-breaking businesses.

It also provided a platform for the leadership of Anglia Innovation Partnership to highlight the many opportunities that Norwich Research Park can offer new companies – whether they are spin-outs, spin-ins, start-ups or scale-ups – and to raise awareness to the regional business communities of the benefits of engaging more with the scientists and researchers working at the Park.

Read on to discover the businesses based at the Park that presented their work to the audience.

PfBIO

A spin-out from the John Innes Centre, PfBIO is looking to supply the agricultural industry with sustainable bacteria-based products to replace chemical-based pesticides. The beauty of PfBIO’s process is that it can develop treatments tailored to specific crops and crop diseases. These treatments are not harmful to humans, plants, animals or the environment.

PfBIO received a grant of £15,000 from Anglia Innovation Partnership to get the business up and running and it has been successful in securing a £50,000 grant from Innovate UK to develop a prototype product to test in field trials. The first products PfBIO is focusing on are for use on strawberries and other berries, potatoes and cereals.

MVPea

Another John Innes Centre spin-out, MVPea is looking to unlock the potential of pea-based products to provide healthier consumer food choices. It is now looking to scale up its activities to bring three projects to market – namely, a range of pea-based snacks, a pea that can be supplied to the canning and frozen market and pea-based instant noodles.

CellExcel

A spin-out from the UEA, CellExcelis developing plant-based composite materials to provide more sustainable alternatives to materials such as fibre glass that are used in the making of panels for cars, aircraft and the manufacture of high-performance bicycles. Traditional composites consume a massive amount of energy in their manufacture and thus create high CO2 emissions. With pressure building to reduce carbon emissions, it is forecast that there will be a rapid growth in the demand for bio-composite.

In dry environments, like the inside of a car, bio-composites work well, but for exteriors there is a need to improve their performance. CellExcel’s primary technology is focused on enhancing the water resistance properties of flax and hemp materials that will enable them to be employed in a much wider range of applications – from lawnmowers to drones and external panels for cars.

Air-seq

A spin-out from the Earlham Institute, Air-seq is developing an early warning system that detects airborne pathogens. The global agriculture industry can lose up to 40% of its crop yields to disease and pests. Productivity and quality of crops and livestock are significantly affected by a range of diseases, that can then spread quickly, resulting in economic losses and deteriorating livestock welfare.

Air-seq’s system enables farmers to rapidly deploy action to protect their crops and livestock before they pose a threat. It does this by conducting air sampling along with DNA and RNA sequencing that detects bacterial, viral and fungal pathogens. This helps improve productivity, yields and animal welfare standards and reduces disease management costs, ultimately reducing economic losses.

Inspiralis

Inspiralis is a spin-out from the John Innes Centre which produces kits with enzymes called DNA topoisomerases, used in the development of antibiotics and anti-cancer drugs. The battle to develop new drugs and treatments to combat some of the more serious conditions that the human species has to contend with is ongoing as resistance to them develops.

Inspiralis is helping academics and pharmaceutical companies to research new antibiotics and cancer drugs so that treatments can be delivered quicker and are more effective.

The business supplies a type of enzyme known as topoisomerases in the form of easy-to-use kits, 80% of which are exported worldwide to countries such as Japan, China, the US, Europe and Australia.

Tropic

Tropic is a well-established company on the Park that has grown rapidly over the last couple of years. It now employs around 150 people who are pioneering the use of gene-editing to develop disease-resistant banana and coffee plants.

The Cavendish banana, which is the most commonly grown and sold variant in the world, is under threat from Panama disease, so Tropic is looking to employ gene editing to create banana plant embryos that will be resistant to this deadly disease. The economies of the tropics are heavily reliant on banana and coffee crops, therefore finding a solution that will help make them more resistant to disease can ultimately safeguard the livelihoods of millions of people and keep bananas on our supermarket shelves.

Roz Bird, CEO of Anglia Innovation Partnership, said: “Whilst the so-called ‘golden triangle’ comprising Oxford, Cambridge and London has been regarded as the hub of the UK’s life sciences research for many years, Norwich Research Park is now being recognised as a centre of excellence to be included alongside them.

We launched our Enterprise Strategy last May with the aim of creating an eco-system and supportive community that will encourage and nurture new businesses – be they spin-outs, spin-ins or start-ups, and attract inward investment that previously might have gone to the ‘golden triangle’.

“Our support includes entrepreneurship schemes, an early-stage Explorer Fund, pre-seed and seed funding so that they are effectively ‘investment-ready’ when they need to scale up,” Roz added.

“I am pleased to say that we are making good progress as more companies continue to emerge. I am looking forward to helping the new generation of entrepreneurs.”

Images: Main – Enterprise Tuesday featured presentations from Norwich Research Park’s entrepreneurial researchers and businesses.  (Anglia Innovation Partnership) Left: Nick Goodwin, COO, AIP, Natassja Bush, MD of Inspiralis, Jack Peart, CBO, Tropic, at Enterprise Tuesday (Anglia Innovation Partnership) Right: Rosaria Campilongo, CEO of PfBIO, a company on Norwich Research Park supplying the agricultural sector with sustainable pesticides (Image: Phil Robinson)

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