John Innes Centre faces a restructuring programme

The John Innes Centre (JIC) has been forced to instigate a major restructuring programme as funds from agrochemical companies and the European Commission fall despite rising costs. 

The Norwich-based plant-science research centre plans to merge certain of its administration and support services with those of the neighbouring Institute of Food Research. This will result in the likely loss of around 35 jobs at JIC, although both institutes are aiming to minimise compulsory redundancies.

’This painful course of action will secure the long-term sustainability of JIC as a world-leading research institute,’ explains director Chris Lamb. The research centre aims to save around ?1.6m a year as a result of the restructuring, which it will use to re-build its depleted financial reserves and invest in its infrastructure and new research.

The centre’s main source of funding is the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), but over the past three years its non-BBSRC funding has halved, representing a reduction in revenue of almost ?3m. Much of this is due to consolidation of the agrochemical industry, which has resulted in fewer companies funding plant research and the research priorities adopted by the European Commission, which are generally targeted at areas outside JIC’s expertise. 

JIC experienced a major funding setback in September 2002, when the UK-Swiss agrochemical company Syngenta withdrew from a supposed 10-year research alliance into wheat genetics after only three years. Under the terms of the alliance, Syngenta was supposed to fund 

a range of wheat-related research projects at JIC and also establish a laboratory within JIC’s newly-built Genome Centre. However, Syngenta withdrew from the alliance as part of a global re-organisation that followed its formation in 2000 from the agrochemical businesses of AstraZeneca and Novartis.

Lamb stresses that the restructuring should not be interpreted as a crisis for JIC and remains upbeat about the future. ’Over the next five to eight years we expect the funding situation to again move in our favour but an anticipated improvement in income does not allow us to deal with the present situation,’ 

he said. 

Jon Evans