By Marcus Leach
The Norwich Research Park has welcomed the announcement by the Prime Minister, David Cameron, of a new Life Science's Strategy for the UK.
A highlight was the commitment of £180m towards the creation of the 'Catalyst Fund' that will help accelerate the development of early stage, potential high growth companies.
The Fund will play a key role in supporting the latest step in the development of the Norwich Research Park as a source of new fast growth businesses and jobs, a process initiated by the creation of a new Angel Investors forum launched on 16th November.
George Freeman, MP for Mid-Norfolk, as Life Sciences Adviser has been closely involved in the development of the strategy, which he says is a major opportunity for the Norwich Research Park.
"The UK's life sciences have a huge role to play in the country's growth strategy. I attended the recent launch of the Venta Angel Investor day at the Norwich Research Park and was impressed both by the calibre of the early stage companies and also the knowledge and interest of the Angels. The Catalyst Fund will help accelerate projects from lab to clinic by facilitating joint projects between industry and hospitals," he said.
The early involvement of clinicians, such as GPs and hospital consultants, in the development of new therapies and medical devices is vital in ensuring that they appropriately address unmet needs. It is often difficult for early-stage companies to create these links and to gain funding for the studies. The new Catalyst Fund will support this relationship and help fast-track developments.
The Norwich Research Park is uniquely placed to support the implementation of the fund as it provides space for innovation and collaborative research and the opportunity to co- locate on a prestigious campus alongside the University of East Anglia, the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, the Sainsbury Laboratory and three of the UK's eight BBSRC (Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council) strategically funded research institutes - the John Innes Centre, Institute of Food Research, and The Genome Analysis Centre.
Norwich Research Park Director, Alan Giles, says that a major strength of the Park is the expertise of its people.
"We warmly welcome the new Catalyst Fund. For years the UK has suffered from a 'brain drain' with some of our best scientists being lured abroad. We see an opportunity to reverse this trend by creating an environment in which these technologists will stay and pursue their commercial interests," Giles said.
"One of the ways that we can support these companies is by helping them to access funding and to participate in collaborative projects."
George Freeman says the fund has been designed to have a very clear application process that is easy to administer. The company needs to meet certain criteria; this would include identification of a clinical sponsor, a potential investor that has made an expression of interest and protectable intellectual property.
"Our intention is to support the type of small scale venture that is of interest to Angel investors. The fund will help these technologies and projects get to proof of concept quickly - often well before there is a company in place - to help prove clinical use and value - which is the point when the market will take an interest in their potential," he said.
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