By Maximilian Clarke

An intelligent prescription support system, a smart device that ensures valuable samples for clinical trials arrive in peak condition, a drug detection device that uniquely links the specimen to the person, and a method of providing scientific evidence for a new generation of medicines were all presented to angel investors at an event designed to show the technologies and business opportunities emerging from Norwich Research Park.

Angel investors were invited to the launch of VENTA, a new initiative supported by the Cambridge Capital Group, which aims to encourage potential high growth, early-stage companies to set up and flourish on the Norwich Research Park. Four science-based companies were selected to present to a group of 40 investors and professional advisers at the event hosted at the NRP Innovation Centre.

Walter Herriot, chair of Norwich Research Park’s Enterprise from Innovation Board, says: “The Norwich Research Park is a world-leading centre for research in areas such as food, diet and health, and plant science, with the wider environmental expertise in earth and life systems. The focus over the next ten years is to create new jobs by maximising the commercial potential of this intellectual property and attracting inward investment.”

Attracting new companies to the Park that can exploit opportunities, such as those offered by The Genome Analysis Centre with its state-of-the art equipment and expertise, will bring value to the entire proposition.

One of the companies invited to present is Trillion Genomics. The company has developed an imaging technology that can be used to gain more information about the metabolic pathways in the human body. Although many foods, such as tomatoes and broccoli, are known to contain beneficial nutrients that could be used to prevent the progression of some diseases, it is difficult to identify how they work in the body. This lack of scientific understanding and evidence is a major obstacle to developing medicines based on food-derived products. Trillion’s technology has the potential to provide this vital scientific proof.

The Norwich Research Park is famed for its work in developing foods with enhanced nutritional values. Attracting companies with technologies that offer new ways to exploit this research has the potential to open up exciting new commercial opportunities.

Other companies presenting are home grown. For example, Intelligent Fingerprinting has a technology which can detect traces of drugs in the sweat on a person’s fingerprint. This was developed within the University of East Anglia (UEA) and spun-out as a company.

Helen Lewis, Director of Research and Enterprise Services, UEA, says:

"The University is working hard to support academics — and indeed our students — in developing their own businesses to put into practice the research and innovation under way on campus. Intelligent Fingerprinting has already excited a good deal of interest and is an excellent example of the sort of enterprise activity which we hope to continue to foster. The recently announced establishment of an NRP Enterprise Centre will help us encourage and develop further business opportunities."

George Freeman, MP for Mid-Norfolk, said at the event: “I was delighted to be invited to speak at the Norwich Research Park's Investor Day. The NRP is the perfect location for new and expanding science, technology and research businesses and I have long been a vocal supporter of the world class excellence to be found in Norfolk science.

Back in Westminster I am constantly beating the drum for the UK's science. In the face of a rapidly rising world population and the approaching food and energy challenge, with our expertise in food and agricultural science we have the potential to be global leaders in these two exciting sectors.

The UK's Life Sciences have a huge role to play in the country's Growth Strategy and it was a privilege to be able come to the NRP today to speak with angel Investors about the exciting opportunities available."

Angel investors are often individuals who have successfully grown their own companies and are passionate about helping to bootstrap other entrepreneurs. They bring funding but also a wealth of expertise and contacts.

Struan McDougall, Chief Executive of the Cambridge Capital Group (CCG), explains: “Members of CCG are committed to backing the best high-potential technology businesses from the region. VENTA provides the opportunity for science-based businesses to receive valuable feedback from the investor community and for investors to discover the exciting prospects coming out of the East of England.”

John Irving, the event organiser, says: “We are delighted to showcase some of the Norwich Research Park partners and tenants to business angels from the Cambridge Capital Group today, and we see this as the first in a growing programme of engagement with the business investment community.”