Innovation drives high-growth businesses at research park

CEO Gilad Gershon and Senior Scientist Angela Chapparro-Garcia of The Tropic Biosciences team

CEO Gilad Gershon and senior scientist Angela Chapparro-Garcia of the Tropic Biosciences team - Credit: Tatum Reid

Norwich Research Park is rightly recognised for its world-leading science carried out at the institutions, university and university hospital it hosts. It is also increasingly being acknowledged as a location that breeds innovative businesses that translate the science into high-growth commercial enterprises.  

It is important to commercialise research wherever possible for the health or nutritional benefits it may bring to the wider public, or for when exciting inventions might arise.  

Many researchers' aim is for their work to make an impact. Setting up a business or social enterprise, or partnering with a company to maximise their research outcomes, can be a good way of achieving this desired, sustainable, long-term impact.

Commercialisation can also be a powerful way of continuing the funding into further research, such as supporting post-doctoral researchers and research assistants 

Here we look at two great examples of high-growth businesses that are thriving at Norwich Research Park. The first underlines Norwich Research Park’s reputation as being the UK’s hub for gene editing, while the second illustrates how true innovation can create a marketable product.  

Bunch of fresh yellow bananas on shelf in supermarket

The Tropic Biosciences team is using gene editing to develop disease-resistant bananas, among other crops - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Tropic Biosciences 

Tropic Biosciences’ success has been built on the development of its gene editing technology platform that will help develop disease-resistance and better quality traits in banana, coffee and rice crops. 

Its success has meant that it was able to secure $30m of Series B funding in 2020, the largest ever VC funding round closed in the UK AgriTech sector. That brought the total equity investment in the company to more than $40m, with the majority of it coming from outside the UK. 

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The funding has, in part, enabled Tropic Biosciences to grow its team to over 120 employees, with most of the team based at its Norwich Research Park facility.  

Gilad Gershon, CEO, said: “Norwich Research Park is a great place for us to be based and build our business to scale. At the park, we enjoy access to fantastic research on our doorstep, and more importantly to an excellent pool of skilled professionals who seek to develop their careers with us.”  

A pair of glasses frames by Coral Eyewear

Coral Eyewear frames are made from made from recycled nylon from regenerated ocean fishing nets and fabric scraps from landfill, which reduces the global-warming impact of nylon by up to 90pc - Credit: Coral Eyewear

Coral Eyewear 

The brainchild of UEA student George Bailey, Coral Eyewear was formed in 2019 while George was in his first year studying philosophy, politics and economics after launching on Kickstarter to fund the development of prototypes.

His business took off with the help of UEA’s Student Enterprise Service and a £50,000 investment from the UEA Enterprise Fund, a donor-supported fund. George spent 2020 working on the business full-time for the ‘year in enterprise’ element of his course. 

George Bailey, founder of Coral Eyewear

George Bailey set up Coral Eyewear initially as part of the ‘year in enterprise’ element of his course at UEA - Credit: Coral Eyewear

The brand’s frames are injection-moulded from ECONYL pellets made from recycled nylon from regenerated ocean fishing nets and fabric scraps from landfill, which reduces the global-warming impact of nylon by up to 90pc when compared with material sourced from oil. 

Coral Eyewear now has six unique designs and over 30 colour and lens combinations.  

George said: “We have over 100 opticians stocking our frames now. And we have an online store where we ship sunglasses to customers using a plastic-free, carbon-neutral delivery system.

"It’s been an incredible experience and it just goes to show that if you have a good idea there is support here at UEA and Norwich Research Park to turn that into a viable business.”