Find out how world-leading research from the Quadram Institute at Norwich Research Park is helping food manufacturers develop healthier products.

The Quadram Institute at Norwich Research Park is a recognised world-leader when it comes to research into food and the gut microbiome. Its commercial arm, QIB Extra Ltd, works with industry partners in the food, diet and health sectors to provide its expertise and services to help develop products – with the profits reinvested for further research.

Eastern Daily Press: QIB Extra is a subsidiary of the Quadram Institute Bioscience QIB Extra is a subsidiary of the Quadram Institute Bioscience (Image: Quadram Institute)

Formed 15 years ago, QIB Extra is a subsidiary of the Quadram Institute Bioscience and acts as an interface with industry to facilitate and manage potential commercial partnerships. Companies pay a consultancy fee to use the institute’s expertise to research a specific aspect of their products or solve a research problem they have identified.

It’s run by a small team whose skill is in aligning research expertise with a company’s specific scientific challenges. It provides ISO9000 standard services to give corporate partners the confidence in both the professionalism of the interaction and the research results.

READ MORE: How to start a business as a virtual tenant of Norwich Research Park

QIB Extra is completely self-funded. Its profits are reinvested into further research at the Quadram Institute, generating several hundred thousand pounds every year. It also earns revenue from companies by offering access to specialist equipment and technology, such as high-powered microscopes, mass spectrometers and virtual modelling systems. These systems mimic the behaviours and responses of human organs, like the gut and colon, to certain foods, ingredients and compounds.

Eastern Daily Press: QIB Extra head of operations Alan Brailsford QIB Extra head of operations Alan Brailsford (Image: Quadram Institute)

Head of operations Alan Brailsford said: “The reputation Norwich Research Park has as a centre for world-leading research in agribiotech, food biotech and genomics means companies are very keen to work with us.

“They recognise that our scientists are at the cutting-edge of research and have the most advanced skills, facilities and technology to provide them with the data and discoveries they need to make their products or services more secure and sustainable.”

There are three main sectors where QIB Extra is particularly active in running partnership research for companies: challenge-testing food, nutritional information and evaluating the level of bioactive compounds in foods.


Challenge-testing is a process whereby researchers introduce bacteria to a food to see if and how long it takes to grow, thus making it unsafe to eat. For food manufacturers looking to extend the shelf life of their products, they need scientific evidence to prove it remains safe to eat, which is where QIB Extra’s researchers come into play.

One of the most serious threats to food safety is botulinum toxin. The researchers test how the bacteria that produce botulinum toxin grow on a variety of foods under different conditions and then report back to the manufacturers. Extending the shelf life of food has positive impacts on sustainability, reducing waste and cutting production costs.

Challenge-testing has become increasingly important as demand for things like vegan or minimally-processed food rises. Because these food types are still quite new, there is a real need to evaluate their safety during storage.

Manufacturers are also looking to reduce the number of preservatives, such as nitrates, in their foods. There are very few places in the UK where this sort of testing can take place, so QIB Extra is in a strong position to offer this as part of its wide range of research services in microbiology and food safety.

Eastern Daily Press: QIB Extra is run by a small team who use their expertise and facilities to align with a company’s specific scientific challengesQIB Extra is run by a small team who use their expertise and facilities to align with a company’s specific scientific challenges (Image: Quadram Institute)

Nutritional information for food labelling

Food labelling is a big issue with consumers, retailers and food manufacturers alike – and it is a complicated business. But QIB Extra’s Nutritional Information Solutions service enables smaller food companies to get the support they need with food packaging labels, which is a legal requirement.

The Quadram Institute also hosts the Food and Nutrition National Bioscience Research Infrastructure, which maintains the UK’s data on food composition, holding all the nutritional information for the UK’s most-consumed foods and ingredients. Companies can pay a fee to QIB Extra to run calculations based on a given recipe and produce the right labels for regulatory compliance. 

Bioactive analysis

Bioactive analysis involves identifying and measuring the number of different compounds in foods linked to healthy properties. This helps farmers and food manufacturers to produce foods that offer potential health benefits, such as by breeding plants rich in certain compounds and developing growing conditions that enrich them. QIB Extra provides access to analysis of these compounds in common vegetables like broccoli, cabbages and potatoes, as well as bioactive-rich fruits.

READ MORE: Norwich company shortlisted for prestigious Earthshot Prize

Alan said: “There is massive potential for us to work even more closely with the agricultural and food industries to develop plants and foods that are healthier, more sustainable and have a longer shelf life.

“With the growing pressure on food security and food quality, our work really does make a difference. The added benefit is that the profits we earn from our work can be reinvested to develop even more valuable research, so it really is a win-win scenario.”

Eastern Daily Press: Roz Bird, CEO of Anglia Innovation PartnershipRoz Bird, CEO of Anglia Innovation Partnership (Image: Chris Ball Photography)

Roz Bird, CEO of Anglia Innovation Partnership, the science park management organisation of Norwich Research Park, said: “It’s so rewarding to see how QIB Extra is translating great science into commercially valuable services for the food and agriculture industries that, ultimately, will be of benefit to consumers both in the UK and around the world.

“There are so many opportunities at Norwich Research Park for new business ideas to emerge from the science taking place here. Through our business development teams and campus-wide enterprise activity, Anglia Innovation Partnership is supporting and encouraging this collaborative work between research and industry and is looking for new opportunities for spin-out and start-up companies.”

For more information, visit