A "transformational" £317.7m investment has opened the door for a ground-breaking plant and microbial science centre to be built at the Norwich Research Park.

The grant confirmed by the UKRI (UK Research and Innovation) Infrastructure Fund is a "major step forward" for plans to create cutting-edge new facilities for the John Innes Centre (JIC) and the Sainsbury Laboratory (TSL).

Research park bosses said it will upgrade the capabilities of the two Norwich institutes, already both world-renowned centres of excellence in crop, plant and microbial science.

Their joint Next Generation Infrastructure programme will develop the site over the next seven years, with £54.7m of the £317.7m total having already been agreed for the first three years.

Eastern Daily Press: Prof Graham Moore, director of the John Innes Centre in NorwichProf Graham Moore, director of the John Innes Centre in Norwich (Image: John Innes Centre)

Prof Graham Moore, director of the John Innes Centre, said: "Securing this funding is a major step forward in realising our vision to improve collaborative working across the UK and overseas, helping us to provide a safer, healthier and more sustainable future through the power of plant and microbial science.

"As well as new laboratories, the investment includes a redevelopment of our plant growth facilities, which in conjunction with our existing field station [at Bawburgh], will improve our ability to study the effects of climate change."

TSL executive director Prof Nick Talbot added: "This transformational investment exemplifies the UK’s confidence in the future of our research institutes and their ability to transform global agriculture through innovation.

"It is imperative that agricultural production is transformed to become a net carbon zero activity that no longer relies on fossil fuels.

"The investment from UKRI will enable us to harness the collaborative environment on the Norwich Research Park, catalysing new research initiatives and creating a unique asset for UK science and innovation."

Construction of the new hub is expected to be completed in 2030.

The development also needs to secure formal planning approval, and a centre spokesman said discussions are already under way with council planners and stakeholders.