South African delegation arrives to learn lessons from two Norfolk business clusters

The delegation from South Africa will visit Hethel Engineering Centre and Norwich Research Park. Pic

The delegation from South Africa will visit Hethel Engineering Centre and Norwich Research Park. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

A delegation from the South African government will visit three key sites in the East of England this week, as they seek to learn how the region is encouraging growth by clustering sectors together.

Officials from the department of trade and industry will visit Norwich Research Park, Hethel Innovation and Cambridge Science Park – all sited on the so-called Cambridge-Norwich tech corridor – as part of a two-week fact finding tour of industrial and business parks across Europe.

They are keen to find out more about the European model of business parks and sector-specific industrial areas and the role they play in economic growth, and want to learn about the life sciences, biotech and advanced manufacturing strengths in the three locations.

Government research identified the Italy, Spain and the UK, with a focus on the East, as examples of successful industry sector clusters which are effectively commercialising academic research. The delegates will also see textile clusters in Milan and Florence and industrial sites in Madrid.

They will be hosted tomorrow by members of the New Anglia LEP and Norwich Research Park management, and visit the John Innes Centre, The Sainsbury Laboratory and University of East Anglia.

At Hethel Innovation, officials will visit the Innovation Centre and see a demonstration from renewable energy experts Connected Energy. The two Norfolk visits follow a tour of Cambridge Science Park on Monday.

Chris Starkie, chief executive at New Anglia LEP, said: 'This visit gives us the chance to showcase the world-leading clusters we have along the Cambridge-Norwich tech corridor and the way we and our partners promote and support them, and to forge new international relationships which could bring with them potential economic benefits in the future. This is a great opportunity for these three sites to show the work they do and the contribution they make to the East.'

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Simon Coward, managing director of Hethel Innovation, said: 'Our innovation hubs have been hugely successful and showcasing our comparative strengths is extremely important. We are looking forward to the opportunity to build relationships which could make us a stronger, globally linked region.'

Jeanette Walker, director of Cambridge Science Park, said: 'We welcome the opportunity to share our experience with other parks around the world.'

Who are they?

Bernd Oellermann is director in the Regional Industrial Clusters unit of the Special Economic Zones and Economic Transformation division of the Department of Trade and Industry. The unit is responsible for revitalisation of government-owned industrial parks in South Africa and for development of clusters.

Mr Oellermann has worked in the private sector for most of his career which included running his own company, as management consultant and as project and programme management professional in sustainable development, renewable energy, water, health, agriculture, engineering, R&D, education, ICT, mining and the financial sector. His work spans government, industry and commerce, labour, communities, youth, academia, research and non-profit environments.

He has a keen interest in the growth and development of people and the 'triple bottom line' of sustainable development that addresses social, economic and environmental development.

Thobile Mazibuko is an economic counsellor at the South African High Commission in London. She heads the Department of Trade and Industry (the DTI) within the Mission, and is responsible for the promotion of South African exports of value added products and services into the UK, as well as attracting Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) into South Africa.

She has been with the DTI for more than 16 years, working in divisions including finance, economic research and analysis and international trade and economic development. Before taking up her post as a diplomat, she occupied a position of Deputy Director for Middle East region, focusing on maintaining and promoting government to government bilateral economic relations with the Middle East countries in an effort of opening market access for South African companies doing business in the region.