What have we learned during the COVID-19 pandemic?

David Parfrey, executive chair of Anglia Innovation Partnership

David Parfrey, executive chair of Anglia Innovation Partnership - Credit: Archant

David Parfrey, executive chair of Anglia Innovation Partnership shares news from Norwich Research Park and thoughts on lessons learned from the coronavirus pandemic

After another week of COVID-19 lockdown, despite the very real and profound tragedy and difficulties many people face, there is evidence that we are thinking differently. Every day there are more remarkable stories of people working out how they can help others during this crisis, and of businesses repurposing and innovating to do their bit in the fight against a common enemy.

At Norwich Research Park we bring together the some of the best of science on a global scale. We are a community of people and a partnership of world-leading organisations. At our heart is a collaborative model, which includes the Norfolk & Norwich University Hospital, and this model gave us the ability to mobilise quickly, efficiently and effectively to do many things to support the crisis.

But we could not do this great work alone. Many businesses have stepped in with help and so many people spread the word when we asked for help. Our park is not an island; it is a part of this great region, a region which has contributed so much to the history of our country, and in this defining moment it is again a region which has shown its greatness.

I began by talking of the people, charities and businesses doing what they can, showing that, at the worst of times, the best in thinking can show through. This is our chance for us to say thank you, thank you to everyone across the region who have done so much.

At Norwich Research Park our vision is to change lives and rethink society. It may take time, but answers will be found to control COVID-19. However, the great challenges our world faces will remain: feeding an ever-growing population, bringing our environment and its climate back from the brink, ensuring that ageing is coupled with good health, and, not least, protecting our world and its people from future pandemics. These huge issues will need science to be able to solve them. The sort of science that forms the heartbeat of Norwich Research Park. We are determined that our, already, globally important science will help to create the future for our region and its people that it so richly deserves.

With every day that passes I find myself more convinced that I am not looking forward to getting back to ‘normal’ – where the operative word is ‘back’. We have already learned so much during this pandemic that past norms are now being challenged. We have learned more about simple humanity and looking out for those around us. We have learned to collaborate and connect in ways we might only have dreamed about before. We have learned to value things we took for granted, such as the NHS and other support and care groups. We have learned to value our freedom and the environment out there. We have learned more about communities and the joy of waving to our neighbours as we clap our NHS heroes on Thursday evenings. We have learned to value our families and friends. In business we have learned that profit (whilst important) is not everything. I for one want to hang on to what we have learned and I want it to change our future.

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We hear much about the need for exit strategies and, of course, we have ours at the Park to make sure that we have everything in place, available and working as and when the phased unwinding of lockdown begins. But, beyond these practical considerations, there is one big overriding, no less important thing for me, and that is that we exit as a better society than we entered, ready to make new decisions about to where we are exiting. My vision is of a place where we continue to honour the memory of those loved ones we lost, where we remember the difficulties we faced, but where we have learned from our experiences to create a better future for this generation and the generations that follow.

What’s your vision?

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