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.
Norfolk and Suffolk (New Anglia)
Foreign direct investment
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.
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.
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.
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 £250,000 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.
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.
In 2020 the company received $28.5 million of equity funding to develop genome-editing-based technologies for accelerated crop improvement for global markets, including banana and coffee.
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.
Sustainable aquaculture in Dorset
Sustainable aquaculture is making huge waves in the global food sector and Dorset companies are in a prime position to exploit this growing market through aquaculture technologies.
Food processing automation in Greater Lincolnshire
Industrial robotics, digitalisation and automation support decarbonisation of the agri-food sector by optimising energy efficiency and recovery; Greater Lincolnshire companies are well placed to make it happen.
Precision agriculture in Telford
Precision farming will play a key role in the sustainable transformation of the global agricultural sector and Telford provides an ideal access point to this innovation-led opportunity.
Plant-based and alternative protein products in the North East
The UK and the North East of England is leading the way when it comes to developing environmentally friendly and sustainable plant-based and alternative protein products.
Innovation in Animal Health in Surrey and Hampshire
The UK and the Enterprise M3 Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) are striving to reduce the global environmental impact of animal products.
Controlled environment agriculture in North and West Yorkshire
An opportunity exists to invest alongside a group of growing Agri-Tech companies in North and West Yorkshire and develop innovative farming techniques that will transform food security and the circular economy.
Sustainable farming systems in Telford and Wrekin
Sustainable farming will play a major role in the transformation of the agricultural sector, with Telford and Wrekin offering an ideal location for investors.
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