July 23, 2020

Norfolk Day: Why Norfolk is a great place for science

by Simon Weir

Click here  to see the original article in the Eastern Daily Press (Norwich, UK)

Norwich Research Park provides an unrivalled location for scientific advancement

Norfolk Day celebrates all that’s great about the county – including the world-leading research that’s done on Norwich Research Park.

David Palfrey of Norwich Research Park, sponsors of Norfolk DayDavid Palfrey of Norwich Research Park, sponsors of Norfolk Day


Norfolk is a great place full stop. We know how beautiful it is and what variety it offers those lucky enough to live here. But it also offers much, much more – not only to its county’s population but also to the region, the nation and the global community, writes David Parfrey, executive chair of Norwich Research Park.

How come? Well, it’s because the science that’s done here in Norfolk is truly world-leading. It may not be the first thing you associate with Norfolk but in a few years’ time I am confident that it will be known as a really great place for science and one of the most important in the world.

One of the main reasons for this is, of course, that Norfolk is home to Norwich Research Park. It’s important to point out that it’s not a run-of-the-mill science park. It has a unique mix of four globally-recognised institutes working in collaboration on world-leading research with the University of East Anglia and Norfolk & Norwich University Hospital. Very few places can claim this combination – plus the Park is home to more than 150 businesses.

In science, there’s no rivalry – it’s all about collaboration. That’s another key reason why Norfolk is a great place for science. Its location means Norwich Research Park is handily placed to work in partnership with Norfolk’s Food Enterprise Park and scientists in Cambridge and London – and with an international airport on our doorstep, it means our researchers can very easily get around the world.

Genomics expert Karim Gharbi of Earlham Institute is one of many leading scientists based at Norwich Research ParkGenomics expert Karim Gharbi of Earlham Institute is one of many leading scientists based at Norwich Research Park


In years to come, as we expand our footprint at Norwich Research Park and as more science-based organisations make this county their home, people around the world will see what we already know: that Norfolk is a great place for science.

Meet the scientists

Peter van Esse, The Sainsburys Laboratory

Dr van Esse is working to stop plant diseases that could devastate staple crops like wheat, corn and potato. “People come here from all over the world for a reason: the level of research here is world-leading. I’m a Dutch scientist working on a Brazilian problem, for American non-profit 2Blades Foundation, from a laboratory in Norfolk.”

Professor Paul Clarke, Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital

Professor Clarke is a consultant neonatologist. His neonatal unit has enrolled the world’s first human babies into a trial testing a cannabis-derived medicine intravenously. “We are now leading the way with testing such promising new medicines,” he said. “The expertise we have here in Norfolk shows we can embrace and deliver on these trials for the benefit of our current and future patients.”

Karim Gharbi, The Earlham Institute

The head of Genomics Pipelines explains why he’s based in Norwich: “It’s always been a hotbed for genomics and one of the best places in the country to work in this field. Genomics is relatively new and the Earlham Institute is one of a small number of places with the infrastructure to deliver world-leading science in this area.”

Justin O’Grady, The Quadram Institute

As an associate professor in medical microbiology at UEA and group leader at Quadram Institute, Professor o’Grady is an expert on the rapid diagnosis of infection. “The fact that all the institutes are co-located makes collaboration really easy. Sometimes the close proximity means you share a building with someone working on something that you both have in common, which you never would have realised if you were separated by more physical distance,” he says.

Asher Minns, University of East Anglia

The executive director at the UK’s Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at UEA explains: “The UEA and Norwich Research Park are really amazing places to be and are world-leading. They are incredibly collaborative and interesting places to work. Most people are not aware of how big Norwich Research Park is and the economic benefits that it brings to the region.”

Ed Hems, The John Innes Centre

Dr Hems is studying chemicals in nature that could be used as new antibiotics for drug-resistant infections. “I’m a Norfolk boy, and I wanted to stay here, so after studying Chemistry at the University of Sheffield, I returned to the John Innes Centre. It’s excellent for science, and you’ve got people with all sorts of specialist backgrounds working together,” he says.