City bid for science status

A major push to transform Norwich into a lucrative science city will begin early in the New Year, officials have confirmed.

A major push to transform Norwich into a lucrative science city will begin early in the New Year, officials have confirmed.

The bid, which could bring a billion pounds of investment and government grants to Norfolk, will get under way at a meeting of interested parties planned for February.

The news comes as latest figures show the BA Festival of Science, hosted by the city in September, was more popular than ever before attracting more than 174,000 people - five times as many as the previous year's festival in Dublin.

Such record-breaking success has convinced officials that Norwich deserves to be ranked alongside such cities as York, Manchester, Bristol and Newcastle.

Laura McGillivray, Norwich City Council chief executive, said: "Norwich is already a city of science, which we have proved through the success of the science festival.

"Now it is important to build on that and we will be meeting in February to look at how we can move forward."

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During the five day main festival programme, 97 events took place at UEA and Norwich Research Park, home to the Institute of Food Research and John Innes Centre.

But there was also the highly popular Science in the City with 87 events and 21 exhibits with a stronger emphasis on attracting families than in previous years.

Festival manager Jo Coleman said: "There were more free events and more exhibitions in better locations than in Dublin, making it easier for people in the city to have access to at least part of the festival activities."

Children and young people also made the event a success with 2,906 pupils from 62 schools aged eight to 13 in the region visiting and 1,400 aged between 14-19 attending from 23 schools.

Trevor Davies, UEA pro-vice chancellor, said: "This was a highly successful event which brought research out of the laboratory and took it right across the city. It shows what Norwich can do when we all work together to get people excited about science."

Initially, it was thought Norwich would have to wait until another round of bids were invited from the government, but a spokesman from the Department of Trade and Industry said if the regional development agency made an approach it would be considered.

Since it was created in 1998 as a partnership between the City of York Council and the University of York, Science City York has helped to create more than 60 new technology companies and 2,600 new jobs. By 2021, it hopes this figure will up to 15,000.