John Innes Centre

The John Innes Centre (JIC), located in Norwich, Norfolk, England, is an independent centre for research and training in plant and microbial science. It is a registered charity (No 223852) grant-aided by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), the European Research Council (ERC) and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and is a member of the Norwich Research Park.[3][4]

John Innes Centre
The John Innes Centre (JIC)
Former name
  • The John Innes Horticultural Institute (JIHI) (1910-1960)
  • The John Innes Institute (JII) (1960-1994)
MottoUnlocking Nature's Diversity
Established1909 (1909)
Budget£467 million[1]
Field of research
DirectorDale Sanders
LocationNorwich, Norfolk, United Kingdom
52.62219189202393°N 1.22169524681226°E / 52.62219189202393; 1.22169524681226

In 2017, the John Innes Centre was awarded a gold Athena SWAN Charter award for equality in the workplace.[5]


The John Innes Horticultural Institution[6] was founded in 1910 at Merton Park, Surrey (now London Borough of Merton), with funds bequeathed by John Innes, a merchant and philanthropist. The Institution occupied Innes's former estate at Merton Park until 1945 when it moved to Bayfordbury, Hertfordshire. It moved to its present site in 1967.[7]

John Innes compost was developed by the institution in the 1930s, who donated the recipe to the 'Dig for Victory' war effort. The John Innes Centre has never sold John Innes compost.

During the 1980s, the administration of the John Innes Institute was combined with that of the Plant Breeding Institute[8][9][10][11] (formerly at Trumpington, Cambridgeshire) and the Nitrogen Fixation Laboratory. In 1994, following the relocation of the operations of other two organisations to the Norwich site, the three were merged as the John Innes Centre.[7]

The institute is divided into six departments: Biological Chemistry, Cell & Developmental Biology, Computational & Systems Biology, Crop Genetics, Metabolic Biology and Molecular Microbiology.[12]

The John Innes Centre has a tradition of training PhD students and post-docs. PhD degrees obtained via the John Innes Centre are awarded by the University of East Anglia. The John Innes Centre has a contingent of postdoctoral researchers, many of whom are recruited onto the institute's Post-doctoral Training Fellowship programme. The John Innes Centre also sponsors seminars and lectures, including the Bateson Lecture and the Biffen Lecture.[13]


The research at the John Innes Centre is divided into 4 Institute Strategic Programs (ISPs) funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)[14]. These ISPs, which combine the research of multiple groups to address a greater aim, are:

  • Genes in the Environment - aims to develop a wider and deeper understanding of how the environment influences plant growth and development.
  • Molecules from Nature - will investigate the vast diversity of chemicals produced by plants and microbes.
  • Plant Health - aims to understand the molecular dialogue between plants and microbes, establishing how they communicate with each other and how they have evolved in relation to one another.
  • Designing Future Wheat - a program with other BBSRC institutes Rothamsted Research and National Institute for Agricultural Botany (NIAB) and the University of Nottingham and the University of Bristol.


The John Innes Centre is also the Norwich base of the Sainsbury Laboratory,[15] an institute focused on plant disease. Although well integrated with the John Innes Centre, The Sainsbury Laboratory is closely affiliated with the University of East Anglia.[16]

Along with the Institute of Food Research[17] and University of East Anglia (UEA)[16], JIC hosted the BA Festival of Science (now the British Science Festival) in September 2006[18].

Since 2015 The John Innes centre , University of East Anglia (UEA)[16] Sainsbury Laboratory,[15], The Earlham Institute and Quadram Institute Bioscience have run Women of The Future[19] an event aimed at promoting career in science to young women.


The John Innes Centre has been directed by:

Notable staff and alumni

Notable staff and alumni include:

John Innes Foundation

The John Innes Foundation (JIF) is an independent charitable foundation (registered Charity No. 1111527) and was formed in 1910 by John Innes. JIF set up the John Innes Horticultural Institution (JIHI) at Merton, London.

Currently, the JIF owns the land and buildings at Newfound Farm, Colney and Church Farm, Bawburgh, Norfolk which are used by researchers from the John Innes Centre.

The JIF trustees also play an active part in the management of John Innes Centre research and have the right to appoint three members of the Governing Council.

The foundation sponsors several graduate studentships each year, support for educational programmes and the infrastructure of the site. They also fund student awards for scientific excellence and science communication.[20]. It also owns a very significant collection of archive material held in the Historical Collections library at the John Innes Centre[21].

The Special Collection and the History of Genetics Library

The John Innes Centre is home to a collection of rare botanical books, lab books, manuscripts and letters documenting the history of genetics and research carried out by its scientists. This includes a letter from William Bateson documenting the first use of the word "genetics"[22]. The History of Genetics library also contains the archives of the Genetical Society.[23][24]

Germplasm Resources Unit

An important part of the John Innes Centre is the John Innes Centre Germplasm Resources Unit (GRU).[25] This seedbank houses a number of germplasm collections, including the Watkins Landrace Wheat Collection, the John Innes Centre Pisum Collection, BBSRC Small Grain Cereal Collection, Crop wild relative collection and several specialist genetic stocks collections.

This material is extensively used by UK and non-UK researchers and breeders, and is an available upon request to research, academic and commercial efforts, subject to availability. The complete list of the material can be found in the GRU database.[26]


  1. Strategic research at the John Innes Centre (PDF) (Report). John Innes Centre.
  2. Annual Report and Accounts for the year ended 31 March 2016 (PDF) (Report). John Innes Centre.
  3. "The John Innes Institute". Nature. 202 (4930): 337–338. 1964. doi:10.1038/202337e0.
  4. Humphries, E. C. (1964). "The John Innes Institute". Nature. 204 (4955): 232. doi:10.1038/204232a0.
  5. "The Gold Standard: John Innes Centre receives Athena SWAN Gold award". John Innes Centre. Retrieved 14 November 2017.
  6. "The New John Innes Horticultural Institution". Nature. 165 (4207): 955. 1950. doi:10.1038/165955a0. PMID 15423565.
  7. John Innes Centre, History. Retrieved 10 August 2008.
  8. "Plant Breeding Institute, Cambridge". Nature. 161 (4097): 714. 1948. doi:10.1038/161714b0.
  9. "Plant Breeding Institute, Cambridge: Dr. G. D. H. Bell". Nature. 161 (4097): 714. 1948. doi:10.1038/161714c0.
  10. "Plant Breeding Institute, Cambridge". Nature. 170 (4335): 913. 1952. doi:10.1038/170913f0.
  11. "The Plant Breeding Institute, Cambridge". Nature. 176 (4480): 487. 1955. doi:10.1038/176487a0.
  12. John Innes Centre, Science Departments. Archived 16 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved 10 August 2008.
  13. "Friday Seminars". John Innes Centre. Retrieved 14 November 2017.
  14. "Research". John Innes Centre. Retrieved 14 November 2017.
  15. Sainsbury’s laboratory
  16. University of East Anglia
  17. Institute of food research
  18. "BA Festival of Science 2006". Teacher Scientist Network. Archived from the original on 9 November 2016. Retrieved 14 November 2017.
  19. "Women of the Future". John Innes Centre. Retrieved 5 March 2019.
  20. "JIF Studentship Prize Winners". John Innes Foundation. Retrieved 14 November 2017.
  21. "Historical Collections". John Innes Foundation. Retrieved 14 November 2017.
  22. "William Bateson Letter, page 1". Archived from the original on 26 April 2017.
  23. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 16 January 2015. Retrieved 16 January 2015.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  24. John Innes Foundation Historical Collections (PDF) (Report). John Innes Centre.
  25. "Germplasm Resources Unit". John Innes Centre. Retrieved 14 November 2017.
  26. "SeedStor Homepage". SeedStor. Archived from the original on 19 January 2015. Retrieved 14 November 2017.
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