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Crop innovation, eco business at heart of new project

hemp-ropeA £4 million project based at the University of East Anglia aims to promote innovation in alternative and non-food crops.

The project will be officially launched with a special event on 29 June.

The aim of the Innovation in Crops project, or InCrops, is to help develop the East of England’s low-carbon economy by boosting eco-business, creating jobs and working to reduce dependency on fossil resources and thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

InCrops has received funding from the East of England Development Agency (EEDA) and the European Union to develop an enterprise hub linking the region’s top researchers with businesses looking to develop new products for the marketplace. By 2013, the scheme aims to have helped create over 100 new jobs and 50 new businesses, whilst bringing in £3 millino of new public and private sector funding to the region.

The five-year project will use the region’s scientific expertise to support the creation of new plant-based products in industry areas ranging from automotive and construction to healthcare and packaging.

Norfolk-based Lotus Cars is already doing this, by piloting the use of locally-produced hemp in fiberglass panels. By replacing the man-made materials, the amount of embedded carbon in the finished product can be reduced, as well as cutting the carbon needed in transportation.

Creating environmentally friendly and innovative projects is at the heart of the launch — right down to the InCrops event cards, which are made out of recycled junk-mail, laden with wildflower seeds which, if planted, will sprout into poppies, daisies and buttercups.

A design competition for eco-furniture will also be launched at the event in conjunction with the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts.

“The purpose of the event is to make all these organisations aware of the InCrops mission — to promote alternative and non-food crops for the development of sustainable products and technologies, as well as facilitating low-carbon business growth and adding value to existing supply chains in the East of England,” said John French, managing director of InCrops.

“InCrops will bring together some of the East of England’s world-class researchers, with the entrepreneurs who can turn their innovative ideas into business successes,” said Lord Edward Iveagh, an EEDA board member. “This project will benefit the region’s growers, scientists and businesses and it is an example of how EEDA is leading the development of future growth sectors such as the low-carbon economy.”

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