Funding from the Enterprise M3 Local Enterprise Partnership, will pave the way to creating a cluster of excellence in animal health in Surrey.

The £1.2mn funding, awarded by the Enterprise M3 Local Enterprise Partnership, will be used for 2 major new projects which will create jobs and foster collaboration with businesses, capitalising on an already well-established animal health base in the Surrey area including Defra’s Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA), The Pirbright Institute and the University of Surrey.

A new Digital Innovation Centre will be established at the University of Surrey’s School of Veterinary Medicine. This will promote new approaches to the collection, use and sharing of data, enabling commercial organisations, partners and researchers to access research information generated by the APHA, Pirbright and Surrey more efficiently.

A Research Innovation Hub will be created at The Pirbright Institute. This will provide a facility enabling researchers, visiting scientists, academics and commercial partners to work together to develop projects and secure collaborations, support and funding. Working in this way will facilitate information sharing and the creation of projects that will benefit both scientific discovery and medical advancement.

The projects are expected to generate significant inward investment from national and international companies.

Dr Andrew Soldan, Commercial Director at the APHA, commented:

“This is an exciting opportunity to establish mutually beneficial partnerships aimed at exploiting the extensive, unique datasets generated by APHA’s research and build on our international reputation in animal health research.

“This initiative highlights our regional strength in animal and public health research and brings together the shared ambitions, skills and expertise of APHA, The Pirbright Institute and the University of Surrey, driving opportunities for more innovation and growth.”

The Enterprise M3 area is already a focal point in the UK for world-class animal health research excellence. These newly-funded projects will enhance the UK’s position as a leader in animal health and put Britain on the map as the place to invest in animal health, drug discovery and innovation in this field.

It is envisaged that the funding will enable local growth through new interactions between partners, industry leaders and small and medium-sized enterprises. By linking small enterprises with large companies, economy of scale benefits could enable new ideas getting to market and getting there more quickly.

Professor John Fazakerley, Director of The Pirbright Institute, said:

“The institute is a world-leading centre of excellence in research into viruses that affect farm animals and viruses that spread from livestock to people. This funding will enable us to host experts from around the world and instigate opportunities for collaboration that will enhance Surrey’s already strong position as a ‘go-to’ destination for animal science.”

Professor Lisa Roberts, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Health & Medical Sciences at the University of Surrey, added her comment.

“The university is delighted with this award, which will enable us to create a centre to promote digital innovation in animal health. It recognises our strong collaborative work between the University’s 5G Innovation Centre CoDE at the Surrey Business School and our new School of Veterinary Medicine.

“The centre will reinforce our existing links with The Pirbright Institute and APHA and will also be of significant interest to the commercial sector.  It is a further step to realise our ambition to create a true centre of excellence in Surrey for veterinary research.”