Government-appointed status will help research park attract more overseas investment

Picture of a scientist at Norwich Research Park observing plants in a laboratory

Norwich Research Park has been selected for inclusion in the Department for International Trade’s High Potential Opportunities (HPO) programme in recognition of its status as a world-leading centre for research into plant science and food nutrition, healthy ageing and climate change - Credit: Norwich Research Park

Norwich Research Park is already known in science circles for being a world-leading centre for research into plant science and food nutrition, healthy ageing and climate change and now its profile will be boosted by the news that Norfolk and Suffolk have been selected for inclusion in the Department for International Trade’s prestigious High Potential Opportunities (HPO) programme. 

The Department for International Trade selects focused investment opportunities to promote to its global network with the aim of attracting investment into the UK from overseas and has chosen to showcase the region’s globally-renowned plant science expertise in developing nutritious food products.  

The HPO programme’s objective is to attract new businesses to the region from overseas and help existing businesses attract greater investment. There will also be support for innovative start-ups and early-stage firms to create a dynamic and growing cluster which will continue to attract investment from around the world. 

Investors will have access to the expertise at Norwich Research Park, a strong agri-food business network and an innovative testbed with new and cutting-edge developments in the pipeline. 

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

Core to the Norfolk and Suffolk HPO proposition is Norwich Research Park, Europe’s largest single-site hub of research, training, education and enterprise focused on plant science, food and health. The Park’s 3,000 researchers and clinicians and around 150 science and technology businesses are focused on the research, development, testing and commercialisation required to take new products to market.  

The Park is already home to a number of successful, high-growth businesses which have attracted global investment. These include Tropic Biosciences, which is developing new strains of the banana and coffee crops to protect them against disease and raised £25m last year; Iceni Diagnostics, which specialises in designing tech-based diagnostics including Covid-19 tests; Colorifix, which is pioneering sustainable dye technology for the fashion industry and is working closely with retail giant H&; and Leaf Expression Systems, which develops pharmaceutical solutions from plants. 

David Parfrey, chief executive officer of Norwich Research Park

David Parfrey, chief executive officer of Norwich Research Park - Credit: Norwich Research Park

David Parfrey, chief executive of Norwich Research Park, said: “I am thrilled with the announcement that Norfolk and Suffolk have been successful in gaining HPO status from the Department for International Trade. This will certainly help us to further promote the commercial opportunities within our Park’s cutting-edge plant and food research sectors. It will undoubtedly boost our ability to continue to spearhead innovation for the food and plant science related issues of high global importance.  

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“We look forward to working with the department to maximise the impact the HPO programme will have for our region. This opportunity to generate significant commercial collaborations will help to drive innovation and achieve our vision to change lives.” 

David Dukes, New Anglia LEP’s head of inward investment, said: “The HPO process will help to raise the profile of our region on the international stage. Our scientists are among the most highly cited anywhere in the world and this helps attract the brightest new talent. HPO status will help to focus on commercialising that expertise and using it to attract new business investment from all around the world.” 

The Norfolk and Suffolk region is an ideal place to develop nutritious food products as it is not only a world leader in plant science and agri-food, it’s also home to 1,000 food and beverage manufacturing businesses employing over 35,000 people.  

Alongside a large and innovative agri-food sector and developments like the Food Enterprise Park, the region has the building blocks required to create a world-renowned food-focused plant science cluster which can compete with other international hubs including St Louis in Missouri, Memphis in Tennessee and the Wageningen Food Valley in the Netherlands.  

Minister for Investment, Gerry Grimstone, said: “The UK has so much to offer international investors across a variety of key sectors and regions, with Norfolk and Suffolk setting the national standard for plant science innovation. 

“Increased investment into this new high-potential opportunity will ensure that it continues to meet global demand for the life-changing research and products, helping the UK to build back better, and stronger.”

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