The University of East Anglia is proposing to become the United Kingdom's premier centre for food research, writes Kam Patel.
The bid has been spurred by the Government's Prior Options review which is considering the privatisation of 40 public sector research establishments.
In a letter to Norwich North MP Patrick Thompson, UEA's vice-chancellor Dame Elizabeth Esteve-Coll discusses the implications of the review for the John Innes Centre, the Institute of Food Research and the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries' Food Laboratory, which is based on the Norwich Research Park in which the university has a stake. The Sainsbury Laboratory for plant research and British Sugar Technical Centre are also there. Dame Elizabeth says that the university has a "vision" of a "federation" based on the institutes and the university which could become the major UK centre for food science, food analysis and food safety. But she warns it is essential for the current set-up on the research park to be retained. A major stumbling block is the Government's proposal to transfer the MAFF Food Laboratory to the ministry's new home in York for the Central Science Laboratory.
Dame Elizabeth thinks such a move would bring little benefit to CSL, of which the food laboratory is a part. "There is much greater potential for collaboration within the NRP if the existing nucleus of research laboratories remains."
The John Innes Centre has already been through the Prior Options review but is being further considered for privatisation by Sir Peter Levene, John Major's efficiency adviser. According to Dame Elizabeth's letter, dated June 25, UEA's proposals will be submitted to Sir Peter's team. It says UEA's initiative is "unanimously" backed by the John Innes Centre's council.