Head of EU praises East of England innovation

On a visit to the region Jose Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission, today said initiatives carried out in the East of England, including the University of East Anglia's InCrops programme, were 'the tools we have to promote economic growth' across Europe.

His visit came as a bid to help put Norfolk at the centre of the UK's knowledge economy was launched by the Norwich Research Park.

The NRP is hoping to get a slice of �200m set aside by the government for Technology Innovation Centres.

The government's Science and Technology Committee this week said the cash should be put into creating six to eight 'world leading centres' out of existing centres to maximise the benefit of the funding, to be spread over four years.

Mr Barroso's visit to the region was focussed on Cambridge and will see him give a speech to the University of Cambridge tonight.

During the visit he was shown the UEA-based InCrops Enterprise Hub, an EU-funded, not for profit company, with a partnership of research, public sector and corporate partners who work collaboratively to develop the commercial potential of innovative crops.

He said: 'Research and development pioneered in the East of England continues to enhance the world around us and I am proud to see European funding accelerating this work. The InCrops project truly embodies the mission of the European Regional Development Fund - to promote innovation and environmental sustainability, whilst supporting hundreds of thousands of small and medium-sized businesses right across Europe.'

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Plans for TICs, to be part private and part public sector funded, were announced last year after a report by Lord Dyson underlined the need for investment in innovation.