Sector groups to boost Norfolk and Suffolk’s emerging tech industries in 2018

Hethel Engineering Centre MD Simon Coward. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

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

New sector groups encompassing businesses and researchers are tipped to help to three of East Anglia's most important emerging sectors to prosperity in 2018.

Jason Hawkins-Row from Aponic with a new vertical sustainable growing system at the Royal Norfolk Sh

Jason Hawkins-Row from Aponic with a new vertical sustainable growing system at the Royal Norfolk Show 2015. Picture: Nick Butcher - Credit: Nick Butcher

Under the direction of the Innovation New Anglia project, sector groups have been established in biotechnology and clean technology with the aim of overcoming obstacles to the growth of the sectors in Norfolk and Suffolk.

Simon Coward, director of Hethel Engineering Centre, a delivery partner in the £1.66m project, said the Go Bio network and Cleantech East sector leadership group are working alongside technology sector body Tech East.

'We want to make sure we are linking new technologies together,' he said.

'Hethel is about looking to the future, and for me that means three things: clean technology, biotechnology, and information technology.


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'The sector groups have to be business-led, and they enable businesses to share what their challenges are and where they are at. Growth now is about being better connected and these networks help businesses to do that as well.'

Innovation New Anglia is being delivered by Hethel Engineering Centre, Innovation Martlesham, Norwich Research Park and Norfolk and Suffolk County Councils. It aims to champion the cleantech, biotech and infotech sectors in which Norfolk and Suffolk have growing strength and which organisers believe will be future drivers for the local economy.

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The project also offers practical support to businesses. It was part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) for a three-year term which ends in October, but has already surpassed its targets of helping to launch 21 start-ups and create 78 jobs.

Organisers hope to continue the project for another three years, until 2021, and are working to secure a second round of funding from the ERDF before its current term comes to an end.

Mr Coward said: 'The outcomes have been identifying these emerging sectors, playing a part in helping them, and bringing businesses to lobby for them.

'The real success has been being able to birth these kind of networks so we can grow a bright future for Norfolk and Suffolk.'

Working in an emerging sector

Jason Hawkins-Row, founder and director of Aponic, believes the biotech sector in East Anglia is well positioned to expand.

His firm, which designs and supplies vertical soilless growing systems, is able to test its technology in the fields near its Acton home while also supplying products to countries including Australia, Peru, Bangladesh and Zambia.

Mr Hawkins-Row is involved with the Go Bio biotech sector group and said such organisations, as well as Hethel Engineering Centre, Agritech East and Norwich Research Park, represented a 'real voice for what is happening'.

'It is full steam ahead as we have so much going on in Norfolk and Suffolk,' he said.

'It is gold dust for a company like ours. We are lucky we were in the right place at the right time with the right product. It enables us to really expand the ideas and the technology and have it working in the fields next to us but also around the world.'

Aponic is a member of the Future50 business support programme for Norfolk and Suffolk's most innovative firms.

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