May 24 2013 Latest news:
EXCLUSIVE By annabelle dickson
Wednesday, March 20, 2013
Chancellor George Osborne is expected to commit “several hundred million pounds” to developing the UK’s “agri-tech” industry today – a move expected to bolster Norfolk’s science economy.
The EDP understands the chancellor will pledge his commitment to agricultural technology to help boost Britain’s economy.
It is thought the cash will be used to set up an investment fund to attract foreign businesses and to help UK firms with high-risk projects.
Regional innovation centres will also be set up to provide training and create demonstration farms where agricultural science can be tested.
With the region already a leader in agricultural research, with institutes including the John Innes Centre at the Norwich Research Park, it is likely to be considered as a potential site for one of the innovation centres, with spin-off businesses able to draw on the funding.
The government announced on Monday that it was launching a £2bn partnership project to kickstart the aerospace industry and said a further £500m would go to other key area such as agricultural technology and the automotive sector.
Mid Norfolk MP George Freeman, the government’s adviser on life sciences, said: “By 2050 the world will need to increase food production by over 70pc using half as much energy and land. The prime minister and senior ministers are determined that Britain’s food and farming sector can play a big role in pioneering and exporting UK leadership in this key sector.
“In recent years Britain has led the world in showing how we can reduce the environmental impact of global farming. The world needs to produce ‘more for less’ and there is a huge opportunity for the eastern region in particular given the agricultural research in Norwich and Cambridge and our work in supporting farming sectors to play a big part in this enormous global market.”
Mike Bevan, of the John Innes Centre, said investment in advanced manufacturing methods had stimulated innovation and profitability in UK companies.
He said: “Similar investment in agriculture will help boost one of the UK’s largest industries. It could help bring plant breeders and producers closer to the work of scientists, speeding up the development of the food crops of tomorrow.”
He added: “The East of England is the natural home for these cutting edge innovations, where we have the expertise in environmental sciences, computational biology, plant science and microbial research. It is also home to one of the most productive areas in UK agriculture.”
See tomorrow’s papers for full coverage of the budget.