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Robin Hood, where are you?

Posted 08/06/2010 by RoseS

It is tempting when one lives and works in the UK capital - but totally untrue of course - to assume that everything happens around London and the southeast. A recent trip to the UK’s city of Nottingham proved that an awful lot of less well-publicised scientific activity is also going on in the regions. Among some of the ‘things you might not know’ about Nottingham, for example, the trip’s organisers – Invest in Nottingham – were keen to point out that the city is the home of two of the world’s biggest medical discoveries: ibuprofen and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Its two ‘world-class’ universities – Nottingham and Nottingham Trent – together account for around 60, 000 students, a good proportion of whom choose to stay on and contribute to the city’s £12.1bn economy, the seventh richest in the UK. And since 2005 we were informed that Nottingham has also earned the status of a ‘Science City’ – one of only six such cities designated in the UK.

Only last week, according to a story in The Times newspaper, researchers at Nottingham university spin out company Oncimmune scored a first with the development of a blood test for lung and later other cancers, tipped to become available in the UK as early as 2011. And just as this blog was about to be posted, two University of Nottingham scientists – Professor Bryan Clarke FRS and Professor Martyn Poliakoff FRS, a member of C&I’s editorial board – were recognised for their achievements in biology and chemistry, respectively, with medals from the Royal Society.

Also this year, Nottingham has officially become the home of Europe’s largest incubator facility for fledgling biotechnology firms – the aptly named BioCity. The 129,0000 ft2 site and all of its associated equipment was donated to the University of Nottingham Trent by BASF for £1 in 2001 – believed to be the largest corporate donation of its kind – and BioCity was launched in 2003. It now houses nearly 525 employees from 70 companies, which rent out lab space for a surprisingly affordable £28/ft2 – almost half the cost of other similar facilities.

The University of Nottingham Innovation Park, along with a new eco-friendly Science Park, are likewise being tipped for future development while the city is also looking for funding for a new MediPark – adjacent to the city hospital and in an ‘ideal location’, Invest in Nottingham says, for the development of a clinical research and medical devices cluster.

All of Nottingham’s achievements and its planned regeneration projects are commendable, and encouraging to see particularly at a time when the UK’s finances, and economy, are about to undergo a serious overhaul. But like all the best laid plans, they will depend on obtaining the necessary funding if they are to reap the promised returns. It will likely take more than one Robin Hood to deliver all of the investment Nottingham so urgently wants.

Cath O’Driscoll – Deputy Editor

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