Funding has been confirmed for the development of a ground-breaking plant and microbial science and innovation hub, providing world-class facilities for the John Innes Centre (JIC) and The Sainsbury Laboratory (TSL).
The transformational investment will fund new cutting-edge, world-class facilities for JIC and TSL at the heart of the Norwich Research Park. This will deliver a step change in the capability to translate scientific knowledge into bio-based solutions in response to some of society’s most pressing challenges.
As well as transforming the existing capabilities of the John Innes Centre and The Sainsbury Laboratory, both internationally recognised centres of excellence in plant and microbial science, the new hub also aims to become a net-zero carbon laboratory.
Investment in knowledge
The JIC and TSL Next Generation Infrastructure programme is funded by the UKRI Infrastructure Fund, which invests in the facilities, equipment and resources that are essential for researchers and innovators to do ground-breaking work.
The programme will develop the site over the next seven years, with £54.7 million being invested over the first three years, and a total investment of £317.7 million from the Fund.
Professor Melanie Welham, Executive Chair of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), said: “Providing access to cutting-edge, sustainable research and innovation infrastructures is mission-critical to the competitiveness and long-term success of UK bioscience.
“UKRI’s investment in the John Innes Centre and The Sainsbury Laboratory Next Generation Infrastructure provides an important opportunity to further improve our local connections with key partners at Norwich Research Park, the likes of which include Earlham Institute and Quadram Institute Bioscience.
“Beyond that, the investment also represents a real opportunity to establish a world-leading global interdisciplinary hub for plant and microbial sciences that will help deliver the bio-based solutions needed to address global challenges around sustainable agriculture, food, nutrition and health.”
Construction by 2030
With construction of the new hub expected to be completed in 2030, an ongoing fundraising campaign is underway to secure a further £30 million investment to support the full cost of the Next Generation Infrastructure programme.
Professor Graham Moore, Director of the John Innes Centre, said: “Securing this funding is a major step forward in realising our vision to improve collaborative working across the UK and overseas, helping us to provide a safer, healthier and more sustainable future through the power of plant and microbial science. As well as new laboratories, the investment includes a redevelopment of our plant growth facilities, which in conjunction with our existing field station, will improve our ability to study the effects of climate change.”
Professor Nick Talbot FRS, Executive Director of The Sainsbury Laboratory, said: “This transformational investment exemplifies the UK’s confidence in the future of our research institutes and their ability to transform global agriculture through innovation. It is imperative that agricultural production is transformed to become a net carbon zero activity that no longer relies on fossil fuels. The investment from UKRI will enable us to harness the collaborative environment on the Norwich Research Park, catalysing new research initiatives and creating a unique asset for UK science and innovation.”
The investments from the UKRI Infrastructure Fund and other key partners will enable the realisation of an ambitious longer-term vision. Healthy Plants, Healthy People, Healthy Planet (HP3) seeks to provide a safer, healthier and more sustainable future through the power of plant and microbial science.
This bold vision represents a revolution in plant and microbial sciences that strives to integrate advances in genetics, genomics, structural biology, live cell imaging and computational biology to reach new levels of understanding.
HP3, and the development of a global interdisciplinary hub for plant and microbial research has garnered generous contributions from the Gatsby Charitable Foundation, the University of East Anglia, the John Innes Foundation, the Wolfson Foundation and the Garfield Weston Foundation.
The new hub will play a pivotal role in reducing the impact of climate change, providing long term sustainable food solutions, improving human health and enhancing growth and economic prosperity across the UK and beyond.