Public Release: 

Barley business for beer brewing nets scientists enterprise funding

Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council


IMAGE: L-R are Dr. Paul Nicholson, Dr. Sarah de Vos and Dr. Chris Ridout outside the Centrum building at the John Innes Centre. view more

Credit: John Innes Centre

Scientists from Norwich's renowned John Innes Centre (JIC) are developing a new business concept, based on their expertise in growing heritage lines of barley for brewing.

Crop geneticist Dr Sarah de Vos has been awarded an Enterprise Fellowship by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) to develop the idea, after a demand for revived heritage lines in brewing was established.

Previous BBSRC-funded work from Dr Chris Ridout at the John Innes Centre had shown that old 'heritage' varieties of barley from seed stocks held at JIC could be grown and used in brewing to produce a range of quality beers, and has attracted interest from around the world.

Using the BBSRC Enterprise Fellowship money the business will revive and develop heritage barley varieties to provide greater choice and added value to farmers, maltsters and brewers in the malt beverage supply chain.

Dr de Vos said: I am looking forward to starting the fellowship which will allow me to focus on getting the business off to a flying start with valuable training, and new opportunities for investment. It's exciting that our heritage lines have received interest from around the brewing world and I'm confident that we can offer exceptional and unusual barley for brewers to produce even better beers. I would like to thank BBSRC and the John Innes Centre for their continued support."

In addition to the excellent malting quality, valuable disease resistance traits have been identified in the heritage varieties by Dr Paul Nicholson.

The team will use crop breeding methods to introduce these traits to elite barley lines. They are focussing on the Eastern seaboard of the USA and Canada where the craft brewing sector is booming, and there is an increasing demand for high quality malting barley that can be successfully grown in the region.

The business proposition capitalises on the desire for sustainable production in agriculture by introducing barley varieties that have greater adaptive value (plasticity) with regard to disease pressures and climate change.

Dr Celia Caulcott, BBSRC Executive Director, Innovation and Skills, said: "This is an excellent example of continued BBSRC investment resulting in exciting business proposal that I hope will lead to a successful and valuable company offering an excellent product to the brewing industry.

"BBSRC Enterprise fellowships are intended for exactly this sort of approach and I wish Dr de Vos and her colleagues the best with their venture."


Notes to editors:

Contact: Chris Melvin, BBSRC media officer, 01793 414694,

Photo caption: L-R Dr Paul Nicholson, Dr Sarah de Vos and Dr Chris Ridout outside the Centrum building at the John Innes Centre.

Photo credit: John Innes Centre.


The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) invests in world-class bioscience research and training on behalf of the UK public. Our aim is to further scientific knowledge, to promote economic growth, wealth and job creation and to improve quality of life in the UK and beyond.

Funded by Government, BBSRC invested over £484M in world-class bioscience in 2013-14.

We support research and training in universities and strategically funded institutes. BBSRC research and the people we fund are helping society to meet major challenges, including food security, green energy and healthier, longer lives. Our investments underpin important UK economic sectors, such as farming, food, industrial biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.

For more information about BBSRC, our science and our impact see:

For more information about BBSRC strategically funded institutes see:

About the John Innes Centre

Our mission is to generate knowledge ofplants and microbes through innovative research, to train scientists for the future, to apply our knowledge of nature¹s diversity to benefit agriculture, the environment, human health and well-being, and engage with policy makers and the public.

To achieve these goals we establish pioneering long-term research objectives in plant and microbial science, with a focus on genetics. These objectives include promoting the translation of research through partnerships to develop improved crops and to make new products from microbes and plants for human health and other applications.

We also create new approaches, technologies and resources that enable research advances and help industry to make new products. The knowledge, resources and trained researchers we generate help global societies address important challenges including providing sufficient and affordable food, making new products for human health and industrial applications, and developing sustainable bio-based manufacturing.

Our research is primarily funded by the BBSRC, which provides £33.3m of funding annually for research programmes addressing the UK¹s strategic priorities.

More info:

Contact: Nicola Brown,, 01603 450044

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