The Food and Environment Research Agency (FERA) (www.fera.defra.gov.uk) is the UK Government’s main research-focused agency investigating sustainable food chains, healthy natural environments and protecting us from biological and chemical risks. Based near York, it has historically been shrouded in secrecy. However, this is rapidly changing. FERA now has an IP Exploitation Manager and spin-out companies located nearby. For example, Forsite Diagnostics (www.forsitediagnostics.com). The company develop and manufacture on-site test kits and is led by Chris Danks since its launch in 2007. Their ‘Pocket Diagnostic’ is the market leader for on-site plant disease testing used by growers, advisors and plant health inspectors. They certainly bring testing for potato blight right into the 21st century (http://bit.ly/7JlX0K)! But I wonder what Pippa Greenwood would say?
FERA and Forsite Diagnostics form part of a more general regional innovation strategy for Yorkshire Forward – the Bioscience Cluster (www.yorkshire-forward.com). It links universities, government departments and industry (there are over 50 companies and 3,700 life scientists work within 8 miles of York). This strategy is also supported by Science City York (www.sciencecityyork.org.uk)
But commercialising bioscience innovation is going to take more than locating firms near to FERA. Getting scientists, academics, venture capitalists and entrepreneurs to collaborate is going to be the key to getting innovations to germinate. Recognising that innovation is fundamentally about people and that it can be managed could be two of the first seeds to sow!
Dr Nigel Lockett
Director of Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation Management (CEIM)