The value that science and research can bring to the welfare and health of the UK economy has grown in recognition over the last few years. Indeed, the Government is pursuing a path to make the UK a ‘science superpower’ and, at Norwich Research Park, a programme for business enterprise is now about to enter its second year.
Norwich Research Park’s Enterprise Strategy was launched last May by Roz Bird, CEO of Anglia Innovation Partnership LLP, the organisation that runs Norwich Research Park, soon after she took up her post. It is already seeing tangible benefits with the birth of several start-ups.
Over the years, a number of businesses have been formed, or spun-out, by researchers at one of the four world-leading research institutes at the Park.
The science has been translated into viable commercial businesses in sectors such as human health, healthy food and nutrition, agritech and climate change.
The ambition is to accelerate the number of spinouts that emerge from the research and science by providing both advisory and financial support alongside top-class facilities, office space and personnel.
For entrepreneurs who have a concept for a business, there is now a clear path in place for them to develop their idea and test it, and then, if validated, to apply for seed funding to help
the business get started.
To that end, Anglia Innovation Partnership has established an Explorer Forum with funds that can be accessed by people to get an expert evaluation of their business idea and support its development into a credible commercial enterprise.
For the next stage, Anglia Innovation Partnership has set up a number of partnerships with organisations like QUBIS, the commercialisation arm of Queen’s University, Belfast, which has a long and strong track-record in creating new technology start–ups; the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council’s (BBSRC) ICURe ‘Lean Launch’ programme; and access to the Norwich Research Park Pre-Seed Enterprise Fund, that can support the market testing of ideas and prepare start-up companies for external investment.
If the start-ups are successful and progress through these stages, they can then apply for seed funding managed by the QUBIS/Sapphire Capital Innovation Fund and grants from Innovate UK of up to £300,000 to match these funds.
So far, over £1m has been raised through the national scheme to invest in new companies in Norwich, Manchester and Belfast.
Despite the programme being less than a year old, seven new companies from the Park are already being considered for the QUBIS/Sapphire Capital Innovation Fund.
Finally, once a company is up and running, there is a Growth Fund that can invest between £250,000-£3m in companies to accelerate their growth, alongside external investors.
Commenting on this progress, Dr Nick Goodwin, COO of Anglia Innovation Partnership, said: “We are really pleased with the progress we have made so far. Having seven companies progress to this stage proves that there is an abundance of potentially good commercial ideas emerging from the research and science that takes place every day here at Norwich Research Park.
“Our strategy is designed to uncover these gems and take them to market rapidly. The opportunities for companies to establish themselves and grow at Norwich Research Park are plentiful and we fully anticipate that we will be supporting many new enterprises in the coming years that will provide employment opportunities and contribute to the local economy.”
Anglia Innovation Partnership’s Enterprise Strategy is not just restricted to on-Park spin-out companies. It also wants to attract companies from other parts of the UK, and beyond, who will benefit from a relocation to a campus that has an abundance of expertise in many fields of science and research in human health, food security and nutrition, climate change and genome analysis.
Roz Bird, said: “We are well on the way to developing a vibrant community of businesses here on the Park. With the likes of Colorifix, Tropic, Leaf Expression Systems, BBRO and Weatherquest already established and new companies such as Inspiralis, Ikarovec and PulseON having already started out, we are aiming to build a pipeline of next generation businesses which either emerge from research conducted on the Park or from entrepreneurs looking for collaborations and partnerships within our areas of science expertise.
“And it’s not just about the basics of funding, facilities and lab space. We are also building a proper business community that will enable further collaborations, knowledge share and social get togethers that make Norwich Research Park such a great place to work. Our aim is to make this a hotbed for investors to spot opportunities to grow innovation that will ultimately deliver jobs, revenue and a vibrant future for Norfolk and the rest of the region.”