Unlocking the global potential for enterprise at Norwich Research Park

Colorifix scientists working in a lab

Colorifix, a company that is pioneering a new technology-based sustainable dyeing process for the fashion industry, is one of the successful business operating out of Norwich Research Park - Credit: Colorifix

In May, a new Enterprise Strategy was launched to kickstart investment into new businesses at Norwich Research Park. The strategy, developed by Anglia Innovation Partnership, the organisation that manages Norwich Research Park, has two aims. 

One is to encourage entrepreneurs and people studying or working at the Park who have a potential business idea, to come forward for support. The other is to highlight to investors, be they venture capital companies or high net worth individuals, the potential the Park offers spin-outs, spin-ins and start-ups for a healthy return on investment.  

To help budding businesses, a pre-seed enterprise fund, set up as a partnership between Norwich Research Park, the John Innes Foundation and UK Research and Innovation has been set up. Successful applicants can receive up to £25,000 from the fund to develop their business ideas. 

And the support doesn’t end there. Once a company has been set-up, it can then apply for the next stage of investment, which is a seed fund run by QUBIS - the commercialisation arm of the Queen's University of Belfast – together with practical support from a team of experts to help them attract investment from local angel investors and high net worth individuals.  

Roz Bird, CEO of Anglia Innovation Partnership LLP

Roz Bird, CEO of Anglia Innovation Partnership LLP - Credit: Chris Ball Photography

Roz Bird, CEO of Anglia Innovation Partnership LLP, said: “Investors will be interested in funding start-ups through our Enterprise Strategy because of the untapped potential that exists here on the Park thanks to the wealth of world-leading research being conducted at the institutes, university and university hospital – a unique mix in the UK.

"Working alongside QUBIS will mean that by the time private investors get involved, they’ll see that new businesses are in good shape to be evaluated and hopefully attract further funding." 

And Norwich Research Park’s profile is set to grow globally thanks to Norfolk and Suffolk’s inclusion in the Department for International Trade’s (DIT) prestigious High Potential Opportunities (HPO) programme. 

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The DIT selects focused investment opportunities to promote to its global network to attract investment into the UK from overseas, and has chosen to showcase the region’s globally-renowned plant science expertise in developing nutritious food products.

Core to the Norfolk and Suffolk HPO proposition is Norwich Research Park, because it is Europe’s largest single-site hub of research, training, education and enterprise focused on plant science, food and health and is well positioned to host the commercialisation required to take new products to market. Investors will have access to a strong agri-food business network and an innovative testbed with new and cutting-edge developments in the pipeline. 

Since the announcement of the region’s inclusion in the HPO programme, embassies around the world have been briefed about its and the Park’s potential with an invitation to visit Norwich to see for themselves the potential business investment opportunities. Being included in the HPO programme is putting Norfolk and Suffolk on the global map and many conversations are talking place both locally and internationally that is helping potential investors to gather interest in the opportunities. 

It is important to promote the region on the international stage because huge opportunities for growth are anticipated. There is a growing global demand for more nutritious food products driven by governments, consumers and businesses looking to combat a range of health conditions associated with lifestyle choices and ageing, including obesity, diabetes, cancer, hypertension, osteoporosis and dementia. 

Another good indication that Norwich Research Park is now appearing on the radar of the world’s investors was evidenced by last month’s visit by a delegation from Dubai's technology, health and culture sectors.  

"We put together a packed programme of presentations, representing the wide range of research activity and expertise at Norwich Research Park, including presentations from two of our key companies - Leaf Expression Systems and the 2Blades Foundation," said Roz. "The delegation expressed real interest in the Park’s commercialisation activity including the recent launch of our Enterprise Strategy.” 

Dr Alsheikh-Ali, deputy director-general of the Dubai Health Authority, said: “There is an immense concentration of talented scientists and researchers at Norwich Research Park. Meeting these world-leading thinkers, all of whom are tackling the biggest medical and technical challenges facing humanity, has inspired us to pursue an even deeper level of partnership with the UK and the region.” 

Norwich Research Park is already home to a number of successful businesses, some of which have raised significant investment, increased their workforces and are rapidly building their customer bases. 

Staff in the lab at Tropic Biosciences

Tropic Biosciences raised $35m (£29.2m) of investment earlier this month to push forward its work on new disease-resistant variants of the banana and coffee plants - Credit: Tropic Biosciences

Earlier this month, Tropic Biosciences, which is working on developing new disease-resistant variants of the banana and coffee plants using gene editing techniques, raised $35m (£29.2m) and has grown its workforce to 120.

Colorifix, a company that is pioneering a new technology-based sustainable dyeing process for the fashion industry raised $22.6m (£18m) earlier this year and is already working with retail giant H&M.  

When you factor in the recent news that the John Innes Centre and The Sainsbury Laboratory received approval for £54.7m in funding for plans to build a new world-leading, state-of-the-art centre for microbial and crop science at Norwich Research Park, it presents a very strong argument to the outside world that the Park means business. 

A number of other new buildings are planned for the Park, which will offer incubation and accelerator facilities for new businesses. There are also 52 hectares of land ready for development which should appeal to investors or company owners looking to relocate.