East of England MEP Richard Howitt visited the National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB) in Cambridge, on Friday 26 October, to see how EU funding is helping move innovation forward into the marketplace within the region.
Mr Howitt toured the construction site for NIAB Innovation Farm’s new reception building with the Head of NIAB Innovation Farm Dr Lydia Smith and NIAB CEO Dr Tina Barsby. Initially, established with support from the NIAB Charitable Trust NIAB Innovation Farm’s role is to communicate the power of plant genetics in providing solutions to global challenges of food security and climate change.
In early 2012 the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) awarded NIAB Innovation Farm funding to improve the transfer of innovative plant science from research laboratories through to commercial markets, specifically supporting and assisting small businesses in the East of England. The new building is part of this process and will be the central venue for NIAB Innovation Farm’s programme of exhibitions, lectures, seminars and workshops.
Richard Howitt said: “I’m delighted to see how the European Regional Development Fund is supporting such an exciting new initiative that will ultimately lead to jobs being created or safeguarded within the East of England. The NIAB Innovation Farm team is already enabling small businesses to work and engage with plant science researchers and universities to develop and to demonstrate innovation in plants and crops. The new facilities will further support this activity and provide an important focalpoint for clients.”
Expected to be completed by spring 2013 the reception building on the northern edge of Cambridge has been designed to achieve the highest sustainability rating and zero-carbon balance in operation, using locally sourced and sustainable materials wherever possible.
Mr Howitt also viewed examples of NIAB’s crop and plant research including work on improving the winter hardiness and antioxidant levels of the culinary herb rosemary and how extending the flowering time of knapweed will improve the availability of food for pollinating insects in late summer.