A growing force for regional development

RegioStars 2013 FinalistInCrops is a regional knowledge transfer project focused on new biorenewables and low carbon products from plants and plant-derived products. Based at the University of East Anglia (UEA) and run by a not-for-profit company wholly owned by UEA, it has supported over 270 businesses and enabled the creation of more than 50 new jobs and 15 new start-ups.

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InCrops has three main goals. In innovation terms, it aims to stimulate the commercialisation of new biorenewable and low carbon products from alternative and non-food crop feedstocks. For knowledge transfer, the goal is to capitalise on the East of England's world-class research capability in plant and crop science. In terms of low carbon economic growth, it seeks to support the business and commercial sector as well as to stimulate economic growth through supply chain development, market integration and product innovation.

The project fits in with a number of business, innovation and economic strategies at the UK's national and regional levels as well as several EU programmes. The latter include the European Regional Development Fund's Competitiveness Operational Programme, and the European Bioeconomy strategy - "Innovating for Sustainable Growth: A Bioeconomy for Europe".

Hub model for businesses

InCrops is unique in having a distributed hub model, with a head office at the UEA in Norwich and project staff based at regional universities and research institutions. This model allows East of England businesses to access and benefit from the region's leading knowledge base in plant research and the use of plant-derived products. For example, SMEs, new start-up businesses or an entrepreneur looking to start a new business are offered up to 14 hours of free specialist business support and consultancy from both the InCrops team and the InCrops partnership.

The project also facilitates engagement between regional businesses and the regional knowledge base, which is currently spread among 13 different academic and research institutions. Future plans for the project include widening the partnership both in the UK and to other EU Member States such as Germany, Italy and Portugal.

Project results are already impressive. Against its first goal, InCrops has boosted the rate of translation of ideas into innovation region-wide. Over 30 successful innovation-related initiatives have taken place in businesses supported by InCrops, and more than 10 businesses have integrated new products, process or services.

Towards a low carbon economic growth

For knowledge transfer, the InCrops Enterprise Hub established a team of specialist Business Innovation Managers to bridge the gap between R&D, business and regional growth. The project is supported by 13 academic and research organisations across the region and has set up collaborative relationships with other knowledge bases in the UK and internationally. Since 2009, 40 businesses have been supported in new collaborations with the knowledge base.

Lastly, the project has had a broad impact in terms of promoting low carbon economic growth. It has supported around 170 SMEs in the following sectors: bio-energy; algal technologies; bio-based materials; food, feed and agriculture; and sustainable construction materials.

InCrops is expected to be sustainable beyond the project's end, helped by its trading arm, NeueAg Ltd, and the Adapt Low Carbon Group. Created in January 2012, the latter will develop links to innovation funding and the built environment.

InCrops has supported over 270 businesses to develop innovative processes, product and services in the low carbon sector since 2008. Its expertise has also contributed to the birth of other successful projects such as EnAlgae Project, the Centre for Built Environment and the NIAB Innovation Farm.”
Dr John French, CEO, Adapt Low Carbon Group, University of East Anglia

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