Growth planned for Norwich Research Park

Norwich Research Park

Norwich Research Park - Credit: Archant

Looking at the lovely EDP pictures of New Year's Day babies born in Norfolk this year, I can imagine what life could be like as they become adults.

By then our masterplan for the Norwich Research Park North development will be well under way and could be almost complete.

I know 'masterplan' sounds like something out of Doctor Who, but it shows the scale of our plans to be at the centre of international research and innovation.

It is incredibly exciting. I think people know a little about the research park, but this approval to expand means it will be a part of many more people's lives.

The development could have a positive impact on thousands of Norfolk families, not least because it's bringing businesses here – potentially creating more than 5,000 jobs in the wider Norfolk economy.

The masterplan gives room for the existing science and technology businesses we have on the Research Park to grow, and space that will attract bigger companies. We will be a European foothold for perhaps Asian or US companies from, for example, the agri-food, nutrition and health sectors, amongst others.

It is not just test tubes.

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The masterplan is not only about the cutting edge science that we do, but also about attracting business from around the world.

Perhaps the New Year's Day babies' parents are already involved – construction work on the Centrum Building is starting this month. It will be the hub of the park, with a café where scientists from businesses and academia can meet, a business centre, labs and offices.

This initial stage includes improving the infrastructure here, the road links and IT links with a new superfast Broadband connection – all of huge appeal to the life science companies we will attract.

We're well established and recognised. Norfolk is already home to a cluster of internationally renowned research organisations.

Norwich is fourth in Britain for the number of most highly cited scientists after London, Cambridge and Oxford. The John Innes Centre and The Sainsbury Laboratory are first in the world for the most highly cited scientists in plant and animal research.

Now the masterplan is approved we're hoping to have more innovative companies knocking on our door, wanting to be based here.

Maybe the newborns' aunts and uncles, grandparents or godparents will take some of the new jobs.

That's not just scientists. It's lab technicians, lawyers, solicitors, patent specialists, couriers, caterers, office staff, secretaries, marketing teams, delivery people, cleaners and other support staff.

It's good news for existing Norfolk businesses, too, as those people are going to be living, shopping, eating and socialising locally.

As Anne Osbourn, associate research director at the John Innes Centre, points out, these babies could have their first brush with science and the research park as very young children at a family open day or activity organised by our various organisations.

By the time they are five, they may be involved in SAW, the innovative science, art and writing project.

SAW uses striking photos from science, such as magnified images of leaf cells and nerve tissues, to enthuse children and develop their creative writing and art skills while learning about science at the same time.

Through ideas like SAW, children learn how to explore and experiment, to have the confidence and ability to question and take risks – vital tools needed to succeed in today's world.

Look at the Research Park now. Twenty years ago some of the companies here were inconceivable. Smart phones weren't something we even dreamt about. Likewise, Research Park-based Intelligent Fingerprinting is developing products that might have been featured in Star Trek but were just not feasible 20 years ago.

So what's out there, to be invented and discovered over the next 20-plus years? In some ways we cannot even imagine what companies will be here, and what county children could grow up to be researching and inventing.

Before then they may meet other Norfolk scientists, perhaps join the Norfolk Food Festival tallest jelly competition, get involved with science camp, science days and science challenges.

The children may, as Dee Rawsthorne of the Norwich Bioscience Institutes suggests, join Inside Science, where local students experience the excitement of working in a world-leading centre of scientific excellences.

If they study science at the University of East Anglia, they'll have access to world-leading scientists across the park in plant, microbial and environmental science.

If they go into research, they'll be helping to address some of the global challenges faced by people here, and everywhere else around the world.

Or they may work at one of the hi-tech businesses attracted here. We already have an enviable pool of talent and skills. This masterplan means we'll have an even more attractive environment for hi-tech businesses and a breeding ground for the highly skilled people needed to take our economy forward.

These people will join staff from across the Park at our partners, the John Innes Centre, the Sainsbury Laboratory and the Genome Analysis Centre, the Institute of Food Research, and the University of East Anglia as well as the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.

I think it is a very exciting time for Norfolk and I urge people to get involved. Find out more at

Matthew Jones is Norwich Research Park chief operating officer.