First Agri-tech Cluster Director announced

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February 18, 2014

Opportunities for agricultural technology or ‘agri-tech’ in the East of England are set to grow significantly due to the exploitation of innovative science, the increase in both global population, the demand for food.

We are delighted to announce the appointment of the first Agri-Tech Cluster Director for the East of England.  The new Director will link the hugely successful organisations in the Norwich-Cambridge region, aiming to create new opportunities that increase employment and economic growth for the UK.  We expect to bring agri-tech investment to the region and build upon regional research excellence, catalysing growth for existing companies and supporting start-ups.  Naturally this will entail working in closely with other research organisations and companies across the UK and internationally.

Former John Innes Centre scientist Dr Belinda Clarke has been selected from a strong field of candidates.  Originally trained as a plant scientist, Dr Clarke has worked for a number of innovation driven organisations and is currently Lead Technologist for biosciences at the Technology Strategy Board; she brings tremendous experience of science and its translation into business opportunities.

JIC Director Prof Dale Sanders FRS said: “I am delighted that Belinda’s appointment will cement existing collaborations in the NorCam agritech cluster, and am looking forward to working with her to develop further links that will help boost regional economic growth.”

Start-up funding for the cluster has been granted by Lord David Sainsbury’s Gatsby Foundation.

Cambridgeshire and Norfolk County Councils and the Local Enterprise Partnerships are  working closely to secure the additional social and economic benefits that agri-tech will deliver to the East of England; bringing together the internationally recognised organisations including the John Innes Centre, the National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB), the Sainsbury Laboratories in Norwich and Cambridge, and the Universities of East Anglia and Cambridge.  Growers and food processors across the region have built tremendously successful businesses with potential to increase export sales for both produce and innovative products.

The East of England has unparalleled expertise in relevant research and agricultural technology that the new Agri-Tech Cluster will integrate and promote. We aim to provide knowledge for UK agriculture to increase productivity while reducing inputs, leading to greater self-sufficiency and export of food and know-how to help sustain the growing populations throughout the world.

Dr Clarke commented “We will build on our strengths through collaboration, sharing ideas and best practice on regional, national and international levels.   We will establish a strong, sustainable cluster, creating synergies between the players to deliver additional economic value. The national agritech industrial strategy gives big opportunities for the UK to grow and I am delighted to be taking on the Director role at this exciting time.”

Dr Clarke takes up her post in March and a launch event will be held on Monday March 17th to coincide with Cambridge’s 2014 Business Awards Week.

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