Norfolk hailed as centre for growth, as Norwich Research Park bids for millions in new-tech funding

East Anglia was hailed as a centre for growth by the head of the European Union, as Norfolk launched its bid for part of a �200m new technology funding pot.

Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, said work being carried in the region, including the UEA's InCrops programme, would help promote economic growth across the continent.

His comments came as Norwich Research Park yesterday put itself forward for a slice of �200m of funding the government has allocated to develop national technology innovation centres.

Yesterday was a deadline for early expressions of interest to become technology innovation centres.

Alan Giles, interim director of Norwich Research Park, said: 'We warmly welcome the government's proposals and have put forward a very strong case for including the Norwich Research Park as a key participant in the technology and innovation centres selected for this important investment opportunity.

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'The NRP is a world-class facility that is firmly positioned at the forefront of advancements in technology and science. There are nearly 3,000 scientists based here, who are leading Europe in research in food, health and environmental sciences.'

The NRP is already talking to a number of 'major companies' and smaller enterprises looking into diet and health and industrial biotechnology, he said.

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The NRP hopes to generate 5,000 additional jobs over the next 10 to 15 years through growth in start-up companies, expansion of existing businesses, inward location and institutional growth.

The government's Science and Technology Committee this week said the �200m should be put into creating six to eight 'world leading centres' out of existing centres. Mr Giles said: 'Further government investment in the NRP would have major impacts in a number of ways.

'It will speed the implementation of our vision to establish the NRP as a key national and international centre for research, innovation and enterprise.

'It will add enormous value to the local and regional economy by attracting substantial public and commercial investment and the high quality, long term, sustainable employment that such investment will bring.

'Importantly, the opportunities for the further development of the exceptional, genuine world class scientific and technological innovations already being generated by the institutes and businesses here, which have a major influence on many issues concerning the planet's population and its resources, will be able to grow very significantly.'

Plans for technology innovation centres, to be part private and part public sector funded, were announced last year after a report by Lord Dyson underlined the need for investment in innovation.

In his visit to the region, centred on Cambridge, Mr Barosso was shown the UEA-based InCrops Enterprise Hub, an EU-funded, not for profit company, with a partnership of research, public sector and corporate partners who work collaboratively to develop the commercial potential of innovative crops.

He said: 'Research and development pioneered in the East of England continues to enhance the world around us and I am proud to see European funding accelerating this work.

'The InCrops project truly embodies the mission of the European Regional Development Fund - to promote innovation and environmental sustainability, whilst supporting hundreds of thousands of small and medium-sized businesses right across Europe.'

A deadline for an initial technology innovation centre, which could be fast-tracked as a high value manufacturing centre, closed on January 31.

It is understood Hethel Engineering Centre made a bid for this but that it may not be big enough to meet criteria set out by the Technology Strategy Board, which is administering the scheme.

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