The first turf has been cut on Norwich Research Park marking the start of its transformation from a world-class centre of research to a next generation research and innovation park.
The construction of the new £11.5m Centrum building will be the hub of the new campus, with meeting spaces to facilitate interaction between commercial and academic researchers and accommodation for larger commercial organisations.
The work has started almost two years since the Right Hon. David Willetts MP, minister for universities and science, first announced that the government and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) would invest £26m to deliver innovation from bioscience at Norwich Research Park.
David Willetts says: “The government’s investment in the Norwich Research Park is recognition that it will drive growth, foster innovation and support skilled jobs. It’s excellent news that the project is making such rapid progress. This is a crucial step in realising our ambition for the Park to be a world-class hub for research and development.”
The Norwich Research Park is home to a world-class university, the UK's eighth busiest hospital, internationally-renowned centres for plant and microbial science, the UK’s premier food research institute, and one of only two international scale genome mapping centres in the country.
The Centrum building will be located at the centre of the Park near the conference centre with the Norwich BioIncubator, Norwich Research Park Innovation Centre and research institutions all within a short walk. It will allow growing companies the room to expand and offers high specification laboratory and office space to attract larger companies. It is due to open in Spring 2014.
Matthew Jones, chief operating officer at the Norwich Research Park, says cross-Park collaboration between researchers has also increased over recent months and this is creating an open environment for innovation.
“This cluster of life science excellence is becoming more mature. We are now seeing spinouts such as Procarta Biosystems and Intelligent Fingerprinting becoming closer to market and the senior managers of companies supporting the University of East Anglia (UEA), such as the managing director of Anglia DNA who is an honorary lecturer.
“Facilities on the Park include the Clinical Research Trials Unit, which brings together academic expertise from the Norwich Medical School at UEA with clinicians from the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. This resource is proving an additional attraction, with companies like LondonPharma able to pursue early phase clinical trials on its doorstep.
“As these relationships deepen they are creating more opportunities for the thousands of students that graduate each year from UEA and a magnet for bioscience related organisations.”
Norfolk MP George Freeman conducted the turf cutting at the ceremony. He says that closer links between Norwich and Cambridge are key to developing a strategic role for Britain in feeding the rapidly emerging global markets of tomorrow.
“The Norwich Research Park is rapidly coming to be globally recognised as a leader in the appliance of life science across the ‘big three’ sectors of food, medicine and energy.
“By working with partners in Cambridge, our region can lead a revolution that will build a sustainable, export-led economic recovery and support the fastest growing markets in the developing world. This is a major opportunity we should seize without delay.”