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Scientists and businesses learn from each other at inaugural Norwich research centre conference

PUBLISHED: 14:02 09 February 2018 | UPDATED: 15:31 09 February 2018

John Innes Centre scientists take questions from industry representatives at the first Science for Innovation Showcase, held at the John Innes Conference Centre on Norwich Research Park. Picture: Phil Robinson, John Innes Centre

John Innes Centre scientists take questions from industry representatives at the first Science for Innovation Showcase, held at the John Innes Conference Centre on Norwich Research Park. Picture: Phil Robinson, John Innes Centre

Phil Robinson, John Innes Centre

Organisers and delegates at a regional conference to share scientific research and discoveries with businesses have lauded the event as a success.

The first Science for Innovation Showcase brought together scientists in East Anglia’s biosciences sector with businesses from around the country, with a view to identifying commercial opportunities in the research.

The two-day event at the John Innes Centre at Norwich Research Park saw around 20 scientists talk to more than 60 representatives from a range of industries about current research projects, from disease resistance in wheat to engineering plants for better nutritional value.

Dr Belinda Clarke, Agri-Tech East director, said the event was “particularly helpful” for young scientists to train themselves to spot commercial opportunities early in their careers.

“With a lot of the discovery science that John Innes does, you do not know what is going to come out of it – getting used to spotting what industry might be interested in is valuable and I think this will really help to strengthen that capability,” she said.

Dr Jonathan Clarke, head of business development at the John Innes Centre, added: “We wanted to reach our target audience, industry, and ensure we gave them something valuable through insight into our science, but also to help our scientists gain a greater understanding of how their science is of value to industry. That hopefully makes it easier for collaboration to happen in the future.”

David Coop, research, development and marketing manager at Elsoms Seeds in Spalding, said the company had a “good relationship” with the John Innes Centre. “We know the value of working with them,” he said.

“The way things have been explained [at the conference] is simple enough that you can understand it but in enough depth that you know how that might be applicable to you, how it could be adapted to the products you have and the projects you are doing.

“Even though plant science is the core of our businesses it is very complicated – to have bite-sized pieces so you can pick out what is relevant is invaluable.”

Dr Ben Huckle, external collaboration lead, biotechnology and environmental shared services at GlaxoSmithKline, said: “It was great to hear what the John Innes Centre can offer to industry and the UK in general, with expertise ranging from nutritional tomatoes to addressing ash dieback disease.”

Steven Penfield, a crop genetics scientist at the centre, said the conference presented an “important opportunity”. “If we don’t speak to industry we do not know what the priorities or interests are, what markets they want to break into – we will never know the relevance of our work.”

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