Edible plants

Plant science for nutrition in Norfolk and Suffolk

Innovative companies in Norfolk and Suffolk are using plant science and genomics to improve sustainable food production and enhance the nutritional value of food.

There is a major commercial opportunity for businesses to exploit Norfolk and Suffolk’s globally renowned plant science expertise to develop nutritious food products, from concept to consumer. These will meet growing global demand for sustainable food which improve physical and cognitive health.

Scientist studying plants in laboratory.jpg


Norfolk and Suffolk (New Anglia)

Investment type:

Foreign direct investment


Clean agri-tech

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Sector and market opportunity

Opportunities exist to create new interfaces between food science, gut biology, human health, and disease, capitalising on Norwich Research Park’s world-class bioscience cluster.

In plant genetics, companies can collaborate with the science base at the John Innes Centre to develop crops containing enhanced or optimized concentrations of specific nutrients.

Norfolk and Suffolk hosts 1,000 food and beverage manufacturing businesses, employing over 35,000 people.

The region also has capabilities in the validation and verification of nutrition and health claims and in strategies for bringing new food products to market.

Growth prospects

Norfolk and Suffolk have the building blocks to create a world-renowned food-focused plant science cluster.

The intersection between plant-based food and health is leading to an explosion of innovative functional food and free-from food and drink products.

There is a clear commercial market for more nutritious products that improve health. The global functional foods market is forecast to grow by over 7.9% each year to around £210 billion by 2025.


The region combines the UK’s most important agricultural economy with world-class plant and food science. This is supported by extensive, stable, self-contained supply chains for businesses using plant science to develop nutritious food and drink products.


Norwich Airport has a range of flights to destinations across the UK and Europe – including major connecting airports like Amsterdam.

London Stansted Airport, accessible in under 2 hours, offers international flights to major cities in Europe and worldwide.

The region is connected to the rest of the UK through an excellent dual carriage way road network and fast and frequent rail services to Cambridge, London and the Midlands.

It’s also home to the Port of Felixstowe, the UK’s largest container port, which handles 40% of the UK’s container traffic.

Research and expertise

Norwich Research Park is at the core of the region’s offer, as Europe’s largest single-site hub of research, training, education, and enterprise focused on plant science.

The Park is unique in having a major university teaching hospital with a leading university campus, the University of East Anglia, and world-class research institutes, including:

  • John Innes Centre
  • Earlham Institute
  • Quadram Institute
  • The Sainsbury Laboratory

These institutes, alongside the comprehensive regional supply chain, are ready to work with businesses to develop nutritious food and drink products.

Local talent and skills

Norfolk and Suffolk’s agri-food sector, which has significant crossover with plant science, employs over 93,000 people within 8,800 businesses.

More broadly, the East of England also underpins the national life science sector in the UK, as a home to 950 businesses.

The Norwich Research Park Biosciences Doctoral Training Partnership (NRPDTP) is a UKRI-BBSRC funded PhD programme. It brings together 5 world-class institutions on a single site to develop skilled researchers and future leaders.

Region Spotlight
South of England


The region is home to 21 million people. It offers opportunities across a wide range of sectors from nuclear and aerospace, to life science and new technologies. There are vibrant clusters of expertise spanning 5G, cybersecurity and artificial intelligence.

View all investment opportunities in South of England

Enabling clean growth

A change to healthy diets by 2050 will require substantial dietary shifts, including a greater than 50% reduction in global consumption of unhealthy foods, such as red meat and sugar, and a greater than 100% increase in consumption of healthy foods, such as nuts, fruits, and vegetables. Plant science is pivotal to this, helping to develop plant-based products with higher nutritional values and reduced levels of undesirable compounds.

Shifting towards diets with higher plant-based content will play an important role in helping the UK to meet its target of net zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050. Plant-based protein sources generally have significantly less GHG emissions than animal-sourced proteins when compared on a like-for-like basis.

Local and national government and support

New Anglia Growth Hub can offer grants of up to £100,000 to help businesses grow and create jobs. A range of other funding packages and soft-landing incentives are also available.

The Norwich Research Park Enterprise Zone and Honingham Food Enterprise Park offer benefits including simplified planning processes and business rate discounts of up to £275,000 over 5 years.

Success stories

Tropic Biosciences UK Ltd

Located at the Norwich Research Park, the company develops high performing commercial varieties of tropical crops using cutting edge genetic editing technologies.

The technologies promote cultivation efficiencies, enhance consumer health, and improve sustainable environmental practices.

The company has raised $73.5M over three rounds to develop genomeediting-based technologies for accelerated crop improvement for global markets, including banana and coffee. Its latest funding round was a Series C for $35M in 2022.

The Smarter Food Company

A spin-out from the Quadram Institute, The Smarter Food Company develops foods with clear health benefits.

Their first product, Smarter Naturally a vegetable-based soup, uses a unique variety of broccoli that has a high level of the naturally occurring compound glucoraphanin.

Scientific research suggests that this compound has a beneficial impact on a range of health indicators including helping to maintain healthy blood glucose and cholesterol levels.


Condimentum is a grower-owned company. It supplies Unilever with locally grown produce for Colman’s of Norwich to be used in their internationally renowned products.

Following a £10.8 million investment the Condimentum site includes a state-of-the-art mustard mill, the only double superfine mill in Europe and one of only 3 in the world.

The mint leaf growing and harvesting happens on Norfolk farms which are all within a 30-mile radius of the processing plant.

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