Growth in East Anglia’s technological sectors must be supported

Simon Coward of Hethel Engineering Centre. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Simon Coward of Hethel Engineering Centre. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

East Anglia's burgeoning reputation for innovation must not be stifled by a lack of investment in science and technologies after Britain exits the EU, a director at one of its scientific hubs has said.

The £1.66m Innovation New Anglia project, partly funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), aims to foster and commercialise breakthroughs in Norfolk and Suffolk in three key 'future sectors' – biotech, clean technology and information technology.

The three-year project, due to end in 2018, is being led by Hethel Engineering Centre, Innovation Martlesham and Norwich Research Park with Norfolk and Suffolk's county councils.

But in order to secure funding until 2021, giving organisers time to shore up post-EU funding pots, they must convince those holding the ERDF purse strings of the project's value for the region.

MORE: Reaction from the region's three 'future sectors'

Simon Coward, managing director of innovation and enterprise at Hethel Engineering Centre, said: 'The aim is to build business clusters to see how Norfolk and Suffolk will look in 30 to 40 years time.

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'Today we have strengths in manufacturing, construction and IT, but what are the future market opportunities?'

The project's biotech team is working with Norwich Research Park to help scientists find commercial opportunities in their research, while industry bodies Cleantech East and TechEast are helping to propel research and boost the East's profile.

Mr Coward said the project is helping small and medium enterprises in the area to 'realise their innovation potential' with workshops, business support and sector-specific advice.

It is encouraging collaboration between students, scientists and businesses to stimulate more start-ups and research projects and also helping businesses tap into new trading and investment opportunities.

New Anglia Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering (NAAME), a local industry network, is also a partner in the project. Network development manager Phil Mickleborough said the sector, the third largest employing sector locally, was key to progress.

'The support of this already strong sector is vital in reinforcing the foundations for emerging technologies and sectors, that the region will be known for in the future.'

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