New building named after microbiologist Dr Ella Barnes OBE completed on Norwich Research Park

5th March 2021

The Ella May Barnes building is ready to welcome organisations specialising in food, life and health science innovation

The £5m Ella May Barnes building, providing state-of-the-art laboratories and workspace at Norwich Research Park, is complete and has been handed to South Norfolk Council.

Ella May Barnes building. Image by R G Carter

Dr Ella Barnes in 1968 – Image supplied by Dr Janet Corry

It is designed to attract and provide space for organisations interested in joining the region’s growing food, life and health knowledge economy. The building is expected to unlock further opportunities at the Enterprise Zone site that could lead to the creation of up to 150 jobs, adding to the community of 12,000 people that are already working at Norwich Research Park.

The new building has been named in honour of Dr Ella May Barnes OBE who, in the 1970s, was a leading microbiologist at the Norwich Food Research Institute, now the Quadram Institute.

Today’s worldwide research into antibiotic resistance and food poisoning can be traced back to her discoveries. Dr Barnes, working with Dr Geoff Mead, subsequently developed pioneering processes in commercial poultry production which encouraged a healthy microbiome in chicks that inhibited the growth of Salmonella, helping to make poultry products safer.

Since then Norwich’s reputation has grown, and it is now a global centre of research into ways of combating food poisoning and antibiotic resistance.

Professor Ian Charles, Director of the Quadram Institute, said: “We are delighted that Dr Barnes and her work have been recognised in this way. Her pioneering research into food safety, gut microbes and antimicrobial resistance has left a legacy that we are proud to carry on in Norwich today.”


Dr Ella Barnes OBE joined the Institute of Food Research in Norwich in 1966, following the closure of its predecessor, the Low Temperature Research Station in Cambridge. Her work there had already led to important insights into the microbiology of food spoilage. Her research also helped highlight the risk of antimicrobial resistance from the use of antibiotics in poultry feed and food preservation. Her studies of the gut microbes of poultry pioneered the ‘competitive exclusion’ principle, where ensuring the development of a healthy gut flora stops the growth of bacteria that cause disease, in particular Salmonella. It’s almost impossible to quantify the impact of Dr Barnes’ work in improving food safety and reducing the numbers of cases of food poisoning. But her impact was recognised by her peers, with a group of gut bacteria (Barnesiella) being named after her. In 1978 she was awarded the OBE for services to the poultry industry. Dr Barnes’ research had a major contribution to the development of modern food microbiology and its use in the food industry to maintain a safe supply chain. She also helped establish Norwich as a major centre for microbiology, with the Quadram Institute continuing its predecessor’s world-leading research into microbes in the food chain, the gut microbiome and antimicrobial resistance. Image: Cambridge Daily News Ltd.

South Norfolk Council has invested £2.75m in the 19,000 sq ft building in Zone 4 and more than £550,000 towards the road infrastructure. New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has contributed £2.5m towards the building and £1.5m to the road infrastructure work.

This continues the successful investment into new buildings, refurbishment of existing buildings and infrastructure and builds on investments made by the Partners of Norwich Research Park that have now reached over £150m over the last five years.

John Fuller, Leader of South Norfolk Council, said: “We are well prepared to turbocharge the local recovery having completed this premium office building during lockdown. This investment will allow our global lead in genetics and other life sciences to extend still further, providing the space for careers and ideas to grow.”

Some of the LEP’s investment has been drawn from its Enterprise Zone Accelerator Fund, which in turn is funded through its £290m Growth Deal from the government.

The Space to Innovate Enterprise Zone comprises 10 key sites across Norfolk and Suffolk, including part of Norwich Research Park. This multi-site zone will help to create 18,500 jobs over the next 25 years.

Chris Starkie, Chief Executive of New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “We’re delighted to have made this investment in additional space at Norwich Research Park, one of our region’s innovation and research assets. It’s wonderful that one of the Park’s leading scientists is also being celebrated through the building’s name. Our Space to Innovate Enterprise Zones deliver real benefits for businesses and projects like this one are helping to bring more jobs and growth to the area.”

Norwich Research Park has one of the largest single-site concentrations of research in food, health and life sciences in Europe and is internationally renowned.  David Parfrey, its Chief Executive, said: “Having more space for research on the Park is very much needed and we look forward to welcoming new organisations to our extensive scientific community.

“Not only does our Park host four world-leading research institutes, plus the UEA and Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, we also have a thriving business community that translates the science into real-life applications that positively change people’s lives both in the UK and across the globe. We have more plans to expand the Park’s footprint that will increase our contribution to the Norfolk economy and enhance future job prospects.”

Mario Rackham, Director and General Manager at R G Carter, said: “It has been a pleasure to work with South Norfolk Council on this state-of-the art facility, which will greatly benefit the wider research community and a create a new home for future discoveries.”

Between 1977 and 1979, Dr Ella Barnes OBE was Hon. President of the Society for Applied Microbiology. An In memoriam article detailing her life and achievements, written by her IFR colleagues Barbara Lund, Alan Kitchell and Clive Impey was published in the Microbiologist and is available online: