Norwich Research Park’s £1bn plan to become “globally loved” innovation hub
PUBLISHED: 06:00 18 January 2019 | UPDATED: 13:02 18 January 2019
“One billion pounds of capital investment by 2029” – this is the ambition for the Norwich Research Park.
Executive chairman David Parfrey was speaking at Norwich Research Park’s strategy event held this week, which saw scientists, business leaders and investors come together to outline the next stage of the site’s future.
Mr Parfey said his vision for the park was to increase the amount of projects based there as well as expanding the offering of services.
“It’s not just about having more buildings,” said Mr Parfrey. “There will be more buildings because we want to bring in more people, but they won’t be grey concrete building blocks, we want to build a place which exudes creativity.
“But the priority is the people inside them; we want to build a community and for that to be a priority. We want it to be the sort of place that you have unexpected conversations in the lunch queue which leads to huge projects, the sort of place where you overhear a conversation and decide to join in.”
The park currently hosts more than 80 businesses across 230 hectares of land.
He continued: “In the next five years I want to have changed the way we look at things here and to change the way we work.
“If I said I wanted to have created £1bn of capital investment in ten year’s time, that wouldn’t be far off my prediction. I want this to become a globally recognised and loved research site, which the people of Norfolk can feel is their own and something to be proud of.
“We want people in Norfolk to be invested in it, to feel that the scientists doing world-leading research are the people standing next to them in the Tesco queue.”
The site hosts some of the country’s leading scientific institutions, such as the Quadram Institute which specialises in food science and innovation, and the John Innes Centre which specialises in plant science and genetics.
Also on the site are the Sainsbury Laboratory which investigates plant disease, and the Earlham Institute which explores living systems through computer science.
Mr Parfrey added that he wanted to build on the park’s research roots of food, health, agrotech and technology by bringing in robotics and artificial intelligence companies.
“We will always have a base in those sectors, but we can expand the offering and provide opportunity for more collaboration,” he said.
Mr Parfrey and the board have successfully increased inter-park collaboration with the establishment of the Translation Fund, which encouraged businesses to work together to bring their scientific research out of the labs and into the consumer market.
Unfortunately that fund has now run out, having funded 37 projects, many of which have gone on to be licensed and patented.
“The Translation Fund is absolutely vital to what we do here,” Mr Parfrey said. “And it’s getting the science out of the labs and out into the real world where we can help people.”
This achieves one of Mr Parfrey’s major goals for the site, which is to bridge what he calls “the Valley of Death”.
He explained: “It’s the idea that science is on one side of a valley and society is on the other.
“It can feel like each are throwing out rope bridges that very rarely land on the other side, and even then it’s a fragile bridge to climb across.
“I want the Norwich Research Park to build a ten lane super motorway in both directions, so that society can be directly impacted and improved by the work which is done here.”
The evening was held at Centrum concluded with members of the park and wider business community giving their feedback on what should be next for the site.
These plans will come to fruition and be made public in the spring, when the new strategy for the research park will be revealed.