The Quadram Institute, the John Innes Centre and the Earlham Institute have received a combined £163.9m in funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), part of UKRI, to support the cutting-edge science they are undertaking at the Norwich Research Park.
The 5-year investment announced today by George Freeman, Minister of State at the Department of Science, Innovation and Technology, cements the region’s position as a world-leader in life science research, innovation, and training – particularly in plant science, food science, microbiology, and genomics.
The funding for the three institutes is part of a wider investment from the BBSRC into their strategic research institutes and infrastructure across the UK totalling more than £376m between 2023-2028. The three institutes at Norwich Research Park have attracted more than 40% of the total investment announced today.
As the UK’s major public funder of bioscience research and innovation, BBSRC is responsible for the long-term investment of substantial public funds in these strategically supported research institutes.
Quadram Institute Bioscience receives £55.9 million for research programmes focused on delivering healthier lives through innovation in gut health, microbiology and food.
The Food, Microbiome and Health programme studies how changes in plant food structure and composition can improve the release of nutrients, and promote colonisation and resilience of health promoting gut microbes.
The Microbes and Food Safety programme develops knowledge of foodborne pathogens and their ability to colonise and persist on surfaces and is being used to predict for potential food safety issues. The programme also focuses on the role of microbes in food spoilage and understanding E. coli as an indicator organism of antimicrobial resistance.
Professor Ian Charles, Director of Quadram Institute Bioscience, said: “This latest investment from BBSRC enables us to focus on delivering science programmes to promote human health and help tackle real-world global problems such as food spoilage and the hidden hunger caused by deficiencies in key micronutrients essential for health.”
The BBSRC funding also supports the National Bioscience Research Infrastructures (NBRIs), such as the Food & Nutrition National Bioscience Research Infrastructure (F&N-NBRI), formerly Food Databanks, as a national coordinating ‘hub’ in nutrition and health and the leading national provider of new and continuously updated data, tools and services vital for UK public health, research and innovation.
The Earlham Institute receives £31.4m for two new strategic programmes of research. The Cellular Genomics research programme will explore the origins and impact of genomic variation in healthy cells, helping to understand how these natural differences affect the ageing process and the response to changes in the environment.
The Decoding Biodiversity programme will develop tools and resources to turn all of the genomes being sequenced around the world into new knowledge and discoveries. From finding genes that make plants or animals more resilient to developing indicators for healthy soils, the programme will help scientists and society to understand, benefit from, and protect life on Earth.
Their funding also supports two National Bioscience Research Infrastructures, which provide the technology platforms and facilities to support these programmes, other research projects, and to provide scientific services to the wider bioscience community.
Professor Neil Hall, Earlham Institute Director, said: “This significant investment allows us to continue delivering world-leading research in genomics and data science. We’re embarking on an incredibly ambitious, highly-collaborative, and multidisciplinary programme of research we believe will be transformative for the field of life science – as well as benefiting global society in the long term.”
The John Innes Centre receives £76.6m of funding for four strategic research programmes to enable research across plant and microbial science, from unlocking the remarkable and under-exploited biosynthetic capabilities of plants and microbes, through to the understanding and delivery of sustainable, resilient and robust high-yielding crops.
All four programmes – Delivering Sustainable Wheat, Building Robustness in Crops, Harnessing Biosynthesis for Sustainable Food and Health, and Advancing Plant Health – aim to build a more sustainable future, through the power of plant and microbial science, informing solutions to meet the era-defining challenges of feeding the world, combating global health threats and climate changes. They will be delivered through partnerships or consortiums with other research institutes, universities or with industry collaborators.
Professor Graham Moore, Director of the John Innes Centre said, “This welcome strategic investment will enable us to continue our research, and to invest in delivering solutions that contribute to a more secure and sustainable future. In particular, the challenges of transitioning to net-zero agriculture, improving public health and mitigating the effects of climate change on food security, are all nationally important priorities that the John Innes Centre, our partners at the Norwich Research Park and from across the UK, can have a real-world impact on, with our world-leading research and innovation.”
Funding also includes research infrastructure and core support, including operational costs that enable their research to deliver maximum impact. BBSRC has also provided partnership funding to support the delivery of strategic programme grants.
Roz Bird, CEO of Anglia Innovation Partnership LLP, the organisation that runs Norwich Research Park, said, “This is a massive boost for Norwich Research Park. As well as the clear benefits the funding will bring to the work undertaken by the three institutes, it also recognises the strategic importance and future role that all of us here at the Park can play.
“The world-leading research and innovation we have at the Park creates opportunities for collaborations that will translate the science into tangible products that can help improve the lives of people around the world and the planet itself, through new spin-out, start-up and scale-up businesses. We have already established a thriving business community and are aiming to build a pipeline of next generation businesses which either emerge from research conducted on the Park or from entrepreneurs looking for collaborations and partnerships within our areas of science expertise.
“Our aim is to make this a hotbed for investors to spot opportunities to grow innovation that will ultimately deliver jobs, revenue and a vibrant future for Norfolk and the rest of the region.”
Minister of State for Science at the new Dept of Science, Innovation and Technology, George Freeman MP, said: “The world is facing a number of major challenges from the climate emergency, food supply security, a growing risk of deadly disease pathogen pandemics, air and water pollution and the urgent need to harness new green energy.
“These challenges are complex and interconnected and will require a concerted effort from the scientific community to harness our knowledge of biological systems to address.
“This £376m investment for UK biosciences announced today will help build on the UK’s longstanding leadership in bioscience – from plant science, to gut biome and nutrition, new biofuels, disease resistant crops and tropical diseases to help attract and retain the best and brightest scientists from around the world, drive innovation and economic growth through the Bioeconomy and help the UK’s Science Superpower mission to better harness science and technology for global good.”