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Friends of JIC


If you would like to join the FoJIC mailing list and receive information about future FoJIC events then please register by completing the online registration form.


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The Audience during our event on Climate Change

Registration at a recent event

Audience members vote during our Climate Change event

Our Field Trial event

Dr Ken at our Discovery Day in 2009

JIC set up it's displays during Science Week at the Forum in Norwich

Members of the Public visited JIC during its Discovery Day in 2009


Friends of JIC (FoJIC)

The Friends of JIC was launched early in 2003 and provides an opportunity for those members of the community with a real interest in the history, work and future of the JIC, and plant and microbial science in general, to gain an insight into cutting edge science.

Friends receive a newsletter three times a year and are invited to attend a variety of events, some of which are open to the public, others which are by invitation only and others which are special events organised specifically for Friends.

Recordings of previous FoJIC events

Is there a need for Golden Rice? (January 2014)


Professor Sir Gordon Conway

Golden Rice is a crop biofortified with higher levels of provitamin A developed using GM technology in 2000. Its development has been covered heavily in the news media. It was developed to address an issue of child mortality for areas which have a diet based on rice but which does not include important nutrients.

In order to understand the issues more fully, the Friends of John Innes Centre hosted a debate presenting different viewpoints to the question 'Is there a need for Golden Rice?'

For more on this event, head to our Golden Rice resource page

This event is available to watch online

The Lamb Lecture (December 2013)

Food Security: is the answer Sustainable Intensification? - Professor Sir Gordon Conway

Professor Sir Gordon Conway

Gordon Conway, Professor of International Development at Imperial College, London and Director of Agriculture for Impact, a grant funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which focuses on European support or agricultural development in Africa.

From 2005-2009 he was Chief Scientific Adviser to the Department for International Development. Previously he was President of The Rockefeller Foundation and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sussex.

He has authored The Doubly Green Revolution: Food for all in the 21st century and co-authored Science and Innovation for Development. His most recent book One Billion Hungry: Can we Feed the World? was published in October 2012.

This event is available to watch online

Resources for Scientific Discovery (November 2013)

The world leading science at JIC is driven by the excellence of our project leaders and their research groups, which in turn dpend on the infrastructure which supports them.

Alone, or in collaboration with Norwich Research Park partners, the Centre provides key platform technologies that underpin its research.

November 2013's FoJIC event introduced the audience to four of these resources, detailing what they do, and the range of projects they support.

The speakers were:

  • Steve Rawsthorne, Science Operations Manager.
  • Ian Bedford - JIC Entomology, Not just the Bug House!
  • David Lawson - Proteins under the microscope
  • Sergey Nepogodiev - Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR)
  • Grant Calder & Kim Findlay - Bioimaging

This event is available to watch online

Synthetic biology - is it real? (October 2013)

October 2013 saw four speakers from the John Innes Centre and Sainsbury Laboratory present on the topic of synthetic biology.

The event was hosted by Prof Anne Osbourn, Director, Norwich Research Park Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy Alliance, who also gave an introductory talk.

The speakers were:

  • Dr Nicola Patron, The Sainsbury Laboratory
  • Dr Cristobal Uauy, Crop Genetics, John Ines Centre
  • Dr Juan-Pablo Gomez-Escribano, Molecular Microbiology, John Innes Centre
  • Prof George Lomonossoff, Biological Chemistry, John Innes Centre

This event is available to watch online

We asked those attending this event to complete pre and post event questionnaires to find out what people knew about synthetic biology and if their views changed at all during the evening.

Over 50% of those attending had not heard the term before and a third felt unable to define it in anyway but after the event only 3 people didn’t attempt a definition. Only 1% expressed concern about synthetic biology beforehand and after the event over 98% were less concerned, with only 16% thinking it unnatural and everyone believing it to be beneficial.

Concerns expressed were around potential misuse and ethics, issues which will be discussed in greater depth at a follow up dialogue meeting.

Interestingly, the topic created discussion between the speakers who felt that it was a term invented by policy makers and funding bodies to describe what many of them felt they had been doing for years, and that it was an umbrella term encompassing a wide range of studies.

Indeed, definitions vary amongst the scientific community so we applaud and thank those who attempted to do so with little or in some cases no prior knowledge of the subject and look forward to more in depth discussions in future.

An evening with George Lomonossoff, BBSRC Innovator of the Year 2012 (May 2013)

George Lomonossoff

May's Friends of John Innes Centre event saw an evening with George Lomonossoff,who was awarded the BBSRC Innovator of the Year award for 2012.

This FoJIC event saw George present the work that won him the award, followed by a conversation on stage and audience questions.

This event is available to watch online

Young scientists showcase their research
(Mar 2013)


National Science & Engineering Week

As part of National Science & Engineering Week, four postgraduate scientists from the Institute of Food Research and the John Innes Centre, presented their research to an appreciative audience. Research topics covered Purple foods and heart disease, the wild west inside our guts, antibiotics from insect bacteria and sticky bacteria.

Watch the presentations

Purple up your life: impact of anthocyanins on CVD risk
by Richard Mithen and postgraduate student Sebastian Achterfeldt (Institute of Food Research)

Who’s the sheriff? – a wild west story about gastrointestinal microbiota
by Claudio Nicoletti and postgraduate student Nadezhda Gicheva  (Institute of Food Research)

Exploiting insect gut bacteria to discover new antibiotics
by Tony Maxwell and postgraduate student Kat Ignasiak (John Innes Centre)

Biofilm baddies: how do bacteria stay on surface
by Arnoud van Vliet and 
postgraduate student Helen Brown (Institute of Food Research)

Local response to an international problem - Ash Die Back disease (Feb 2013)

Local response to an international problem - ash die back disease

The ash die back fungus was first identified in the natural environment in the UK in Ashwellthorpe Wood in Norfolk. 

Norwich scientists are now leading the way in the race to try and find out as much as possible about the disease in order to find ways of combating it. 

This event explained this devastating problem and what is being done about it and how you can help.

The speakers were: Allan Downie and Anne Edwards (JIC), Chris Blincoe (ADAPT) and Diane Saunders (The Sainsbury Laboratory)

This event is now available to watch online.

The Annual Lamb Lecture (Dec 2012)

Mark Lynas

Organic food, GMOs and sustainable agriculture: green myths and scientific reality

Mark Lynas is a writer and environmentalist, whose award-winning books on climate change have been translated into 23 languages.  His most recent book, The God Species, challenges the environmental movement to take a more scientific approach to meeting the challenges of sustainability.

Lynas is a former anti-GMO campaigner who now supports the genetic modification of crops as an important component of a more environmentally-friendly food system, and recently worked with Rothamsted scientists to raise public awareness of the potential benefits of their aphid-resistant wheat trial.


This talk is now available to watch online.

Nature's chemical toolkit (Nov 2012)

Nature's Chemical Toolkit

Plants and microbes produce thousands of chemicals that facilitate communication with pollinators, competitors and predators.  These chemicals also serve important functions, for example acting as chemical sunblocks, waterproofing agents, and antifreezing agents, which allow the plant or microbe to survive in the environment.

Individual species differ enormously in the number and types of specialised chemicals they produce.  For example, different species of soil bacteria produce different types of antibiotic molecules that kill or deter competing and predatory organisms.

Different species of plants produce different coloured pigments in their petals and fruits.  Some plants produce trace amounts of toxic chemicals that can be used to treat various human cancers.  Our research has led to the discovery of chemicals that are important for both the survival of the organisms concerned and human health and wellbeing.

The talks from this Friends of John Innes Centre event are now available to watch online.

National Scientific Treasures in Norwich (Oct 2012)

National Scientific Treasures in Norwich

The BBSRC, Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, the major funder of science in the UK has recently designated 14 national capabilities.  

You will hear about four of these which are located in Norwich.  Three at the Institute of Food Research and one at the John Innes Centre.  Two are national collections of yeast and seeds, and the other two are databases collating information on food composition and predictive food microbiology.  Find out why they have been designated national facilities and why they are so important.

Chaired by Dr Steve Rawsthorne, Science Operations Manager, John Innes Centre

Exploring the natural yeast diversity of Ecuador
Ian Roberts (Institute of Food Research)

What's in the food we eat and how do we get the information?
Paul Finglas (Institute of Food Research)

Seed banking: a mutual investment for a secure future
Mike Ambrose (John Innes Centre)

ComBase - predictive modelling for food safety
Jozsef Baranyi (Institute of Food Research)

Watch the event

An evening with Plant Scientists

Flowers in February

In celebration of the first ever International Fascination of Plants Day with over 39 countries taking part, the John Innes Centre home to some of the best plant scientists in the world asked some of them, amongst other things, why plants?  What is that fascinates them about plants and what is it they want to find out about them?

In conversation with Richard Hollingham, Professors Caroline Dean, Alison Smith, Giles Oldroyd and Martin Howard will reveal all about their careers and research.

Watch the presentations and discussion

Flowers in February

Flowers in February

The public event was held in February 2012 at the JIC Conference Centre.

This winter has been so mild we wouldn’t be surprised if plants were blooming in February! But what happens in a normal season? Just how do plants control when and how they flower?

Find out how research at the John Innes Centre on flowering in weeds contributes to food security

The presentations

  1. Welcome and Centre Update
    Steve Rawsthorne, John Innes Centre
  2. Look back at research in flowering at John Innes
    Judith Irwin, John Innes Centre
  3. From flowers to fruit
    Nico Arnaud, John Innes Centre
  4. Why does flowering matter to crops?
    Judith Irwin, John Innes Centre

Watch the presentations

Should I listen to experts?

Should I listen to Experts?

The public event was held in November 2011 at the JIC Conference Centre.

Who do you turn to for advice and which advice do you take?  A simple enough question but does your head ever rule your heart and are your decisions evidence based?  Do you ever doubt experts based on who they are seen to be representing and can you ever get truly independent advice?  Are you confused by controversy between scientific experts on issues such as GM, Climate Change, Food Security, Diet and Health and MMR?  How does the peer review process in science work and is it robust? 

During this event we explored these and other aspects of decision making with "experts" in risk perception, gardening and peer review.

The presentations

  1. Gut instincts, expert judgments and things in between...
    Dr Gary Barker, Institute of Food Research
  2. How to avoid going down the wrong garden path
    Bob Flowerdew, BBC Radio 4's Gardener's Question Time and author of numerous books on practical gardening
  3. Peer review
    Andrew Sugden, Deputy Editor & International Managing Editor, Science

Watch the presentations

The Norwich Science and Innovation Vision

Why did the Government invest £26M in the Norwich Research Park, how will it be spent and who decides?

The public event was held in October 2011 at the JIC Conference Centre.

Why did the Government invest £26M in the Norwich Research Park, how will it be spent and who decides?

With over 11,000 people the Norwich Research Park has one of Europe's largest single-site concentrations of research in Health, Food and Environmental Sciences. It is internationally recognised for the excellence of our research in the plant and microbial sciences, food, health, environmental sciences, computer and information systems and chemistry. The NRP is a collaboration between the University of East Anglia, the  Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, and four independent research centres; the John Innes Centre, the Institute of Food Research, the Sainsbury Laboratory and from July 2009 The Genome Analysis Centre.  The Norwich Research Park is also home to over 30 science and IT based companies making the NRP a vibrant place to do business as well as research.

  1. Welcome and Introduction to the Norwich Research Park
    Professor Dale Sanders, Director, John Innes Centre
  2. Norwich Research Park - a bright future
    Walter Herriot, Herriot Associates Ltd
  3. Anglia DNA
    Dr Thomas Haizel, Managing Director of Anglia DNA Services
  4. BBSRC/NRP Project 26
    Dr Matt Hills, Head of Operations, Norwich Research Park

Watch the 4 presentations

New drugs for cancer

New drugs for cancer

The public event was held in May 2011 at the JIC Conference Centre.

The presentations highlight the latest developments in interdisciplinary research that the Norwich teams are applying to the identification and assessment of the next generation of potential anti-cancer drugs.

  1. Introduction to Interdisciplinary Research in Norwich
    Prof Rob Field, Dept of Biological Chemistry, John Innes Centre
  2. Controlling Nature: Harnessing Plants for the Development of Improved Cancer Drugs
    Prof Sarah O’Connor, Dept of Biological Chemistry, John Innes Centre and School of Chemistry, UEA
  3. Tadpoles on Drugs: Identifying New Compounds for Skin Cancer Treatment
    Prof Grant Wheeler, School of Biological Sciences, UEA

Watch the 3 presentations

Showcase of Young Science 2011

Showcase of Young Science

This public event was held in March 2011 at the Forum in Norwich in March 2010 to showcase some of the varied research being undertaken by young scientists at both the John Innes Centre and the Institute of Food Research.

After the audience had listened to the 4 presentations they were asked to vote for which project they would give continued funding to. You can also vote for your favourite area of research by watching the presentations and then using the online voting form to cast your vote.

Watch the Showcase of Young Science

The GM Debate - Where are we?

The GM Debate - Where are we?

During this public event, held in February 2011, another decade of the debate was examined and the role GM can play in helping issues affecting global food security were discussed. Preliminary outcomes from the on site GM potato blight trial were also relayed.

The audience were given the opportunity to give their opinion on a technology that has been adopted by over 14 million growers in 25 countries worldwide on over 134 million hectares of land.

The three presentations:

  • Looking Back and Going Forward
    Dr Wendy Harwood, John Innes Centre
  • Genetic Modification or Global Malnutrition?
    Professor Jonathan Jones, The Sainsbury Laboratory
  • GM Potato Trial in Norfolk
    Dr Simon Foster, The Sainsbury Laboratory

Watch the 3 presentations plus listen to the Q & A session

The Annual Lamb Lecture

The Annual Lamb Lecture

'Human genome and beyond'

In December 2010, Mark Walport, Director of the Wellcome Trust presented the Annual Lamb Lecture.

The Wellcome Trust funds innovative biomedical research, in the UK and internationally, spending over £600 million each year to support the brightest scientists with the best ideas.   Before joining the Trust Sir Mark was Professor of Medicine and Head of the Division of Medicine at Imperial College London. 

Watch or download the lecture

JIC on Tour - Poringland

JIC on Tour

In October 2010, JIC held a community event at Poringland, near Norwich. Amongst the day long activities JIC scientists gave a series of short talks which we recorded ard are now available to view:

JIC on Tour - Sheringham

JIC on Tour

In October 2010 John Innes Centre’s scientists hosted a Garden Pest Clinic, as well as exhibitions and talks on the work at the research centre.

As well as an exhibition on the John Innes Centre, there were short talks on the history behind it, and on its current research programmes, including the story of the famous John Innes composts.  There was also a specialised talk by Mike Ambrose on pea research, with visitors getting the chance to extract DNA from peas.  The garden pest clinic was hosted by Dr Ian Bedford of the JIC Entomology Team

Sarah Wilmot, Outreach Curator at the John Innes Centre, said “We were delighted to be invited by the Sheringham Horticultural Society to take our centenary exhibition to North Norfolk.”

View a short video taken during the event

A centenary of trial plots at John Innes

A centenary of trial plots at John Innes

A FoJIC event in June 2010 took members of the public on a tour of some of the field plots on the John Innes site.

Field trials on small plots or on a commercial scale on the farm are vitally important to enable scientists to test their findings from experiments conducted under controlled environments either in growth rooms or glasshouses. Out in the field the plants are subjected to the vagaries of the weather, the soil and naturally occurring pests and diseases.

During the event we recorded a talk by Dr Simon Foster entitled "A GM solution for potato late blight"

Have your say!

Showcase of Young Science

At a 'Friends of JIC' event in May 2010, we asked the audience what they thought was JI's most significant scientific contribution. Speakers presented the case for 5 major achievements.

Watch the presentations

Showcase of Young Science – what do our young scientists do?

Showcase of Young Science

This public event was held in March 2010 at the Forum in Norwich in March 2010 to showcase some of the varied research being undertaken by young scientists at both the John Innes Centre and the Institute of Food Research. After the audience had listened to the 4 presentations they were asked to vote for which project they would give continued funding to. You can also vote for your favourite area of research by watching the presentations and then using the online voting form to cast your vote.

Watch the Showcase of Young Science

The HMS Beagle Project comes to Norwich

HMS Beagle Project

2009 was one of the most significant anniversaries in science: it marked the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin, and the 150th anniversary of the publication of his book On the Origin of Species. This FoJIC presentation by Dr Karen James of The Natural History Museum includes a potted history of Darwin and the Beagle plus details of 2 projects that Karen is involved with including the HMS Beagle Project to build a sailing modernized seagoing HMS Beagle, the ship on which Darwin circumnavigated the globe between 1831 and 1836.

Watch Karen James' talk recorded in March 2010.

Blooming Snapdragons

Blooming Snapdragons

William Bateson was the first Director of the John Innes and in researching the history we came across the remarkable story of Bateson’s Ladies, unsung heroes in the development of the new science of genetics. As we delved deeper and the characters came to life, we felt that the story just had to be told and what better way than in a play where we could recreate their personalities and also explore the development of contemporary women scientists.

Watch a performance of 'Blooming Snapdragons' recorded at the FoJIC event in March 2010.

Food Security

The 'Friends of JIC' event on Food Securit

The 'Friends of JIC' event on Food Security held in February 2010 was attended by over 200 members of the public.

The talks are available to watch online.

The Annual Lamb Lecture

The Annual Lamb Lecture

In December 2009 Steve Jones, Professor of Genetics and Head of the Dept of Genetics at University College London, presented the first Annual Lamb Lecture 'What sex really means'.

This wonderfully entertaining and informative presentation is available to watch online.

JI100 events - Celebrating the JI Centenary

John Innes Centenary events

JI100 - A Year of Centenary Celebrations. John Innes ran a number the events and activities to mark the John Innes Centenary. These took place between August 2009 and July 2010. Activites ranged from the production of a commemorative beer to the holding of an international science symposium.

For further details of the events and activities held during our centenary year please go to the JI Centenary website.

Why do we do field trials?

Why do we do field trials? 

In June 2009 FoJIC members where invited to learn more about the field trials currently happening at JIC.

Watch a short video of the event

Register to become a Friend of JIC

If you would like to register as a Friend of JIC and receive details by email of our events then please complete our registration form.

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