Norwich Research Park ‘set for next stage of growth’, says departing boss

Sally-Ann Forsyth at Norwich Research Park.Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Sally-Ann Forsyth at Norwich Research Park.Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

The former chief executive of Norwich Research Park believes it has reached the end of the first stage of its development - and that the foundations have been laid for future growth.

Dr Sally Ann Forsyth says the park's profile has been raised at home and abroad since she took over in September 2013, and revealed that discussions were in progress over 'national and international' companies moving into the park in two separate deals.

Dr Forsyth left last week to take up a post with Stevenage Bioscence Catalyst, a campus which focuses on biotech, pharmaceutical and medtech companies.

But she will not be immediately replaced in the role, as NRP enters a period of review under David Parfrey, who became independent executive chair on March 1 for six months. The partner organisations behind NRP are assessing their options before setting the park's priorities for the next five years.

Dr Forsyth said her tenure had been 'a pleasure and a privilege' but that she felt the 230-hectare park was well set for further expansion.

'I'm pleased we've been able to bring the park together, and build a supportive environment. We now create new companies, support the growth of existing companies and bring new companies in,' she said.

The park is now home to more than 80 companies and 12,000 employees, and supports 3,000 researchers and 14,000 students through its institutions. The 80-plus business occupiers of the park employ 548 staff – a sharp rise on the 23 companies and 140 staff when Dr Forsyth arrived at NRP.

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She said the success had been a 'team effort' but pointed to Enterprise Zone status, awarded in 2016, as a key milestone.

'We've taken it from being a research site to being a science park. This is the first stage of its development and it's now ready to go to the next stage,' she said. 'There's a fantastic network here, especially in areas such as agri-tech which the East is known for, so we can put supply chains together very quickly.'

With the park now 93% full, she said new infrastructure and further plots were under consideration.

She added: 'I've been very lucky. I've had a great opportunity in Norfolk and Norwich, and there is so much potential here.'

The next step

David Parfrey has been appointed as independent executive chair of Norwich Research Park LLP, which oversees the park's development.

The new post began on March 1, when Prof David Richardson stepped down as non-executive chair.

Mr Parfrey is currently executive director of finance and campus operations at the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), and has 30 years of experience of leading business transformation at organisations such as British Gas and Qinetiq.

Prof Richardson said: 'David will oversee a period in which the partner organisations of the NRP LLP are seeking to review the LLP's achievements over the last five years and its strategy for the next five years, particularly in respect of the opportunities presented by the Government's Industrial Strategy.'

The park is a partnership between the University of East Anglia, the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital trust, the John Innes Centre, Quadram Institute and the Earlham Institute and the Sainsbury Laboratory.