£5.1m upgrade for ‘world-class’ plant science at Norwich Research Park
John Innes Centre
Norwich scientists are getting a £5.1m tech upgrade to boost their “world-class” experiments to make food crops more resilient to diseases and climate change.
The funding has been awarded to modernise the horticultural facilities at the John Innes Centre (JIC), part of the Norwich Research Park.
It includes more than £3m to construct new controlled environment rooms (CERs) for plant and microbial experiments, giving scientists precise control of environmental factors including light, temperature and humidity.
The upgrade will also improve the containment measures required for experiments investigating infectious plant pathogens, or for growing genetically-modified plants.
The JIC said this investment is the start of a long-term move away from using outdated glasshouses – mostly designed and built several decades ago – and towards controlled environments which enable more consistent results for experiments seeking to solve urgent global food challenges.
John Lord, head of horticultural services at the JIC, said: “World-class science needs world-class, market-leading technology. This investment is timely because there is a desperate needs for our scientists to work on solutions to the challenges that face us. From understanding pathogens that cause plant diseases, to creating climate-resilient, nutritious crops that feed the world.
“This investment will bring a much-needed upgrade, providing facilities that are relevant and appropriate for the world-leading plant and microbial science that takes place on the Norwich Research Park. It also future proofs the site to fit with longer term ambitions to redevelop the infrastructure here.”
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The planned modernisation includes 30sqm of “walk-in growth space” with state-of-the-art lighting, climate control and irrigation systems.
The new development has also been designed to bring energy efficiency and sustainability benefits from LED lighting, wastewater treatment and the harvesting of rainwater, which will be monitored and treated on-site. The JIC says this consistent supply of soft, nutrient-rich irrigation irrigatiwater means scientists will be able to minimise the use of fertilisers, while ensuring that scientific experiments are “reliable and repeatable”.
The £5.1m upgrade is being funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), part of UK Research and Innovation. Work will begin later this autumn, and the project is expected to be completed by March 2021.
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“This is the start of a wider, long term project to update horticultural services at the John Innes Centre to ensure that it continues to meet the needs of science of today while being flexible enough to meet the needs of tomorrow as problems and new technologies arise,” added Mr Lord.
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