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East Anglia Future 50

Collaboration the key to ground-breaking research

PUBLISHED: 14:48 16 April 2019 | UPDATED: 14:53 16 April 2019

A researcher from the Earlham Institute working on a drone that is part of the CropSight system

A researcher from the Earlham Institute working on a drone that is part of the CropSight system

Archant

David Parfrey, executive chair of Anglia Innovation Partnership LLP, the body that runs Norwich Research Park, explains why collaboration and research go hand in hand.

CropSight that uses near real-time environmental and crop growth monitoring data to improve crop performance    Picture submittedCropSight that uses near real-time environmental and crop growth monitoring data to improve crop performance Picture submitted

One of the key benefits Norwich Research Park offers is the enormous opportunity for collaboration. With 12,000 people, including 3,000 scientists and clinicians, we have a community of communities that is working together to solve some of the world's biggest problems in agriculture, food and health through ground-breaking research.

Norwich Research Park is truly unique in the UK in being the home to so many different highly-regarded organisations: a university, a university hospital and four world-leading research institutes alongside more than 80 businesses. There's also an abundance of land to continue building a truly significant location to host the world's best life sciences, research and tech organisations.

Building on existing research strengths, Norwich Research Park will become a global centre, attracting the best minds and making it easier for people with different specialisms to work together for the benefit of humanity.

For instance, a project delivered by researchers from the Earlham Institute, John Innes Centre, and University of East Anglia (UEA) will ultimately help to feed the world. It has developed a new system called CropSight that uses near real-time environmental and crop growth monitoring data to improve crop performance.

The distinctive Quadram Institute building at Norwich Reserach Park. Picture contributedThe distinctive Quadram Institute building at Norwich Reserach Park. Picture contributed

Capturing data like this (known as Big Data) presents a major challenge for plant scientists trying to understand the dynamics between crop performance, genotypes and environmental factors and for agronomists and farmers monitoring crops in fluctuating agricultural conditions.

CropSight uses smart devices located in fields that are linked to computers in a lab to help them to understand the best times for planting, fertilising, watering and harvesting. With all three partners being based on Norwich Research Park it was much easier and quicker for them to progress their developments as all the expertise was located in the same place.

Another good example of collaboration is a project that is being funded by Big C cancer charity, which is based at Norwich Research Park. Big C is funding research to find a way to help prevent breast cancer. It is being delivered jointly by the John Innes Centre, Quadram Institute and the UEA's Norwich Medical School.

Scientists at the Quadram Institute have been looking at the role that microbes which reside in our digestive systems have on the development of breast cancer. To complement this work, The John Innes Centre has generated a suite of experimental tomato strains, enriched to produce specific molecules that are thought to be responsible for the health promoting properties of certain plants and the things we produce from them like red berries, red wine and soy. Diets based on these enriched tomato lines have been shown to influence the gut microbiota ecosystem and reduce the symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease.

David Parfrey, executive chair of Anglia Innovation Partners, Norwich Research Park. Picture Joe LentonDavid Parfrey, executive chair of Anglia Innovation Partners, Norwich Research Park. Picture Joe Lenton

A third example of collaborative success is the work being done by scientists at the newly-opened Quadram Institute in partnership with the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital to help people stay healthier as they live longer.

The brand new building brings together clinicians from the Gastroenterology Department at the hospital with scientists from Quadram Institute Bioscience (QIB) to study the relationship between food science, gut biology and health. They are supported by state-of-the-art technologies including one of the largest endoscopy units in Europe that will make Norwich a hub for gut health and nutrition. This new facility gives us a massive opportunity to lead the way in how clinicians, scientists and patients can work together to solve some of society's most pressing health problems.

These are just three of the incredible collaborations designed, to change lives, that are happening now at Norwich Research Park. We have a fantastic opportunity to create a place where collaborative working delivers solutions to global food and health problems while establishing a platform for attractive employment that will contribute to regional growth. Norwich is the City of Stories, so my invitation is: Come be a part of this story – it's an opportunity too good to miss.

Our video can be viewed at https://www.norwichresearchpark.com/index.php/

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