Last Thursday, March 9, UK Property Forums held its first event in Norwich!

Using the Centrum Atrium Space at Norwich Research Park, delegates heard from leading industry professionals who spoke about Norwich and the surrounding Norfolk area.

Following an update from Roz Bird, chief executive of Anglia Innovation Partnership, which runs Norwich Research Park, the discussion opened up to the panel, which discussed the wider topics of Norwich and its link to life sciences in the wider context.

The panellists included Roz Bird, chief executive of Norwich Research Park, Professor Charles ffrench-Constant, pro-vice-chancellor of Norwich Medical School, University of East Anglia, Neil Hall, director of the Earlham Institute, Hugh French, associate director of Pigeon Investment Management, Caroline Dean, partner at Mills & Reeve and Holly Woolley, development associate at Savills.

Discussions revolved primarily around life sciences in the county from the varying angles on the panel and how Norwich is in a somewhat unique position to nurture life sciences, with a university, a hospital and a research park all next to one another. The implications of this mean that you can invent it, make it and test it almost all in the same place.

There was also talk around the potential of the research park, which has planning consent for some 1.6m sq ft, which will be developed as lab and research space of varying sizes to host an array of businesses– however, this amount of space has some wider implications.

The panellists were confident that the county has enough housing to currently meet its demands, and has the development pipeline to accommodate an influx of people as the Park is developed, but greater concern was made around the current severe oversubscription of school places in the county and how, should a sudden influx of workforce arrive, education would be accommodated in the county.

There were also concerns about the current road and rail networks to and from the city in particular, with the only road links in and out being A-roads. Though the journey is doable from a commuting perspective, should the county truly want to level up and compete globally with the likes of Boston, USA, significant improvements would need to be made to the transport infrastructure to help this, both between Norwich and Cambridge, but also Cambridge and Oxford.

The panel was in agreement that in order to take life sciences to the next level nationally, there needed to be collaboration rather than competition amongst the current life science clusters, including Norwich, Cambridge and Oxford. If the clusters were to collaborate to form a larger ecosystem, then the UK could globally compete in the life science sector.

Norwich Research Park has lots in the pipeline, to keep up to date with all that’s going on, sign up for its newsletter here.

Photo (l-r): Neil Hall, Holly Woolley, Professor Charles ffrench-Constant,  Hugh French, Matthew Battle, Roz Bird, Caroline Dean

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