How science is forging stronger links with education, research and business

A new PHD programme will investigate plant-based nutrition and health, such as purple tomatoes that are high in...

A new PHD programme will investigate plant-based nutrition and health, such as purple tomatoes that are high in anthocyanin, a phytochemical which has demonstrated ability to protect against a myriad of human diseases - Credit: JIC Photography

Norwich Research Park has been a centre of education and discovery for many years but perhaps now, more than ever, the opportunity to create and nurture stronger links between education, research and business in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) disciplines is one that that should be grasped to help the region develop further its reputation as a centre for world-leading science and grow its economic footprint. 

Artists’ impressions of the exterior of the new Productivity East institute, which will be built at Norwich Research Park 

Artists’ impressions of the exterior of the new Productivity East institute, which will be built at Norwich Research Park - Credit: UEA

Productivity East engineering and technology hub to open 

To help enhance the county’s reputation for excellence in engineering, technology and management, the new £7.4m state-of-the-art Productivity East facility at the University of East Anglia (UEA) is expected to open its doors this summer.  

This new institute will support businesses in the region by enabling them to work alongside the university’s world-leading researchers and students to discover practical solutions to current and future challenges. Students, academics and businesses will be able to collaborate to explore new ideas, develop prototype designs and create innovative products and services.  

Productivity East will include workshops dedicated to advanced robotics and CNC machining, a 3D printing studio, a digital design lab and a shared studio space to educate the next generation of digitally-minded engineers. 

Artists’ impressions of the interior of the new Productivity East institute, which will be built at Norwich Research Park

Artists’ impressions of the interior of the new Productivity East institute, which will be built at Norwich Research Park - Credit: UEA

Fiona Lettice, pro vice chancellor for research and innovation at UEA, said: "We are delighted that the institute will be opening soon. The thirst for knowledge and discovery that we hold at the university is shared by our Partners at Norwich Research Park and the businesses whose home is here.

"We truly believe that it will prove to be another significant step in building a world renowned hub in Norwich for the development of ideas that can have a positive impact on changing people’s lives.” 

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Funding for Productivity East was provided through a combination of an investment from the UEA and a grant of £4.5m from the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership.  

A picture of healthy food to illustrate the new PhD programme into plants, food and health at Norwich Research Park

A new PHD programme will investigate plant-based nutrition and health and will draw on the world-leading science-based research expertise at the University of East Anglia (UEA), the John Innes Centre, Quadram Institute and Earlham Institute - Credit:

Groundbreaking PhD programme into plants, food and health launched 

A new four-year PhD programme has been launched at Norwich Research Park to further advance the science that focuses on plants, food and health. It’s the first such doctoral course on offer in the UK and is funded by the Wellcome Trust. 

The programme is named Edesia after the Roman goddess of food and feasting because it emphasises the benefits we get from good diets. The programme has been set up to investigate plant-based nutrition and health and will draw on the world-leading science-based research expertise at the UEA, the John Innes Centre, Quadram Institute and Earlham Institute – all based at Norwich Research Park – making it unique in its field. 

The PhD will cover topics such as metabolic engineering of plants to improve the concentrations of specific nutrients, state-of-the-art approaches to breeding and genome editing of crops, the role the gut microbiome plays in the absorption of plant-based foods and the use of the latest ‘omics’ technologies to measure changes in metabolism and gene expression. 

Dale Sanders, director of John Innes Centre, said: “We are always trying to push the boundaries here at Norwich Research Park. This new PhD programme is a great example of how we are leading the way in research into the role that plants can play in our diets and the implication that has for our health. We are really looking forward to welcoming our first intake and are very excited about the impact that their research is going to have on our understanding of plant nutrition."  

New strapline

In keeping with the growing awareness of the work being done at Norwich Research Park and to help people have a greater understanding, the Norwich Research Park brand identity has had a refresh which includes the strapline ‘Changing lives | Rethinking society’. 

David Parfrey, chief executive of Norwich Research Park, said: “Brand recognition and an understanding of what the brand stands for is a very valuable commodity for any organisation. We have refreshed the logo and added a strapline that will, I believe, help Norwich Research Park be better known for the great work it does. 

"The strapline itself has its roots in our Vision and should help people to gain a better understanding of the magnitude and scale of the research that is being undertaken across our Park and the difference this work is making to people’s lives and to our planet.” 

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