Rothamsted’s iconic building to become hub for new agri-tech businesses, bringing new jobs and businesses to Hertfordshire


Rothamsted Enterprises

27 January 2020

Refurbishment work is underway at world-leading Rothamsted Research to bring its striking Russell Building back to life as a hub for high-growth agri and food tech businesses and entrepreneurs.

The building is of huge historic importance as the spiritual home of UK agricultural science. Pioneering statistician RA Fisher, who laid the foundations of modern experimental design, worked in the Russell and the scientists who created the first pyrethroid insecticides were based there.

The beautiful red-brick Russell Building on the entrance to the globally renowned agri-science research centre in Harpenden has lain empty since 2014.

Now, thanks to a £1.7m joint Local Growth Fund investment from Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and Hertfordshire Innovation Quarter (Herts IQ), the building will be renovated to provide much-needed grow-on and start-up space for agri- and food-tech businesses. The prime office space will be launched this summer.

As a founding partner of Hertfordshire IQ, Rothamsted Research is helping to build a cluster of green businesses in the county’s only Enterprise Zone. This increase in capacity will enable a greater number of companies to take advantage of the tax breaks, free business support and collaboration opportunities with industry leaders offered by Hertfordshire IQ.

The building, which will house 22 offices, will enable high-growth, high-tech companies to join a thriving ecosystem of agri-tech, food tech and innovation businesses based on site, with excellent transport links to the rest of the UK as well as international airports. In total, the building will accommodate up to 118 people in spaces ranging from 200ft2 to over 1,200ft2. These will include an open plan innovation space, where early-start entrepreneurs can work together before prototyping their ideas and testing on site, to grow-on spaces and offices for these early start-ups and related businesses.

Peter Oxley, CEO at the Lawes Agricultural Trust said: “Increased demand is behind the expansion of our innovation facilities for businesses, with the other buildings occupied by external businesses (Daniel Hall and Lawes Open Innovation Hub) on the Rothamsted estate currently at full capacity. This is extremely positive news for the campus, for entrepreneurs, for the town, and for the region, as we bring more jobs and businesses into Hertfordshire.”

Demand for more office space has also been boosted by the recent launch of the privately-funded accelerator programme ‘Shake Climate Change’ and the AgRIA Project, providing entrepreneurs and SMEs with funding and on-site entrepreneur support to encourage cross-working of various sciences.

“We are delighted by this development,” said Angela Karp, Rothamsted Research Interim Institute Director and CEO. “Bringing together entrepreneurs on campus with our world-class scientists, I am confident we can look forward to a new era of ground breaking innovation in agricultural science and technology at Rothamsted.”

Paul Witcombe, Head of Enterprise and Innovation, Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “This will provide much needed grow on space for high-tech, high-growth gazelle companies within this burgeoning sector. By bringing this prominent building back into use, it sends a very clear message that Hertfordshire is the home of innovation and enable Rothamsted to continue to foster open collaboration between business and science.”

Minister for Local Growth, Rt Hon Jake Berry MP, said: “We’re committed to boosting economic growth across the whole of the UK and levelling up opportunity for people wherever they live.

“The Russell Building has been an iconic landmark in Rothamsted for generations and this £1.7 million of investment from the Government’s Local Growth Fund will give it a new lease of life as a world-class base for businesses in the growing agri-tech sector, which will create jobs and boost the local economy.”

Businesses in these sectors looking for new office premises in Hertfordshire should contact Asmaa Shariff on 01582 938679 or email



Notes to editors:

Established in April 2015, Rothamsted Enterprises is a collaboration between Rothamsted Research (RRES), the Lawes Agricultural Trust (LAT) and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)[1] . It is based on the historic, world-renowned Rothamsted Research campus in Harpenden, Hertfordshire and is the first stage in the development of a larger campus on the site in Harpenden.

Set up in 2015 as the commercial arm of Rothamsted Research, Rothamsted Enterprises is a unique hub focused on promoting collaboration and innovation by partnering with commercial agricultural technology businesses and opening up the research process. Rothamsted Enterprises encompasses Rothamsted Agri-Tech Business Centre, Rothamsted Conference Centre, Rothamsted Manor and Rothamsted Restaurant. It exists to enable and facilitate innovation and collaboration in Agri-Tech, through office and lab space rental, as well as through conferencing and events.

About the Russell Building

The beautiful red-brick Russell Building was constructed between 1914 and 1918 on the site of the testimonial laboratory and was officially opened in 1919. The building was named after Sir Edward John Russell OBE FRS, a British soil chemist, agriculture scientist, and director of Rothamsted Experimental Station from 1912 to 1943.

The Russell Building refurbishment project builds on the success of the Daniel Hall Building (86 employees created to date, 12 new start-up businesses on site as well as tenants securing £1m financial investment in Q1 2019). The building is now at full capacity with businesses seeking grow-on space, which this project will provide, enabling further growth and freeing up incubation space in the Daniel Hall for new start-ups.

Businesses with a presence at Rothamsted range from start-ups and SMEs right through to established international agribusiness. Tenants include Gowan Crop Protection, Femtogenix and Timac Agro. The Harpenden Campus is served by excellent transport links, close to the M1, A1M and M25, is 10 minutes from London Luton Airport, and just 25 minutes from London St Pancras International.

About the Lawes Agricultural Trust

The Lawes Agricultural Trust is an incorporated charity and company limited by guarantee which traces its origin to a Trust which was established in 1889 by a Declaration of Trust of Sir John Bennett Lawes FRS, who founded Rothamsted Experimental Station in 1843.

The Trust’s Object is “to advance the science of agriculture for the public benefit through original investigation and research, which may embrace all or any subject(s) connected to or bearing upon agriculture, including animal or vegetable physiology, meteorology, botany and chemistry”.

The Trust’s main assets are the land and buildings at Rothamsted, Harpenden, and at Brooms Barn, Suffolk. As such, the Trust utilises its assets to pursue its Object as follows:

  • Provision of land and buildings suitable for agricultural and related sciences conducted by Rothamsted Research;
  • Provision of accommodation to key workers, students and staff – enabling them to move into Harpenden on modest scientific salaries;
  • Granting financial support for scientific costs to Rothamsted Research, mainly through a “Director’s Vote” fixed annually by the Trustees;
  • Playing an active role in taking forward the Rothamsted campus to enable interaction with small companies, actively enhancing the uptake of agricultural and environmental research across different communities, in conjunction with Rothamsted Enterprises Limited.

About Rothamsted Research

Rothamsted Research is the oldest agricultural research institute in the world. We work from gene to field with a proud history of ground-breaking discoveries. Our founders, in 1843, were the pioneers of modern agriculture, and we are known for our imaginative science and our collaborative influence on fresh thinking and farming practices. Through independent science and innovation, we make significant contributions to improving agri-food systems in the UK and internationally. In terms of its economic contribution, the cumulative impact of our work in the UK exceeds £3,000 million a year (Rothamsted Research and the Value of Excellence, by Séan Rickard, 2015). Our strength lies in our systems approach, which combines science and strategic research, supported by unique capabilities and interdisciplinary teams, and strengthened by partnerships. Rothamsted is home to three unique resources. These National Capabilities are open to researchers from all over the world: The Long-Term Experiments, Rothamsted Insect Survey and the North Wyke Farm Platform. We are strategically funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), with additional support from other national and international funding streams and from industry.

For more information, visit

About Hertfordshire IQ

Hertfordshire IQ is an Enterprise Zone 30 minutes from London in Hemel Hempstead on J8 of the M1. Hertfordshire IQ is run by seven partners all committed to its long-term success: Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership, Hertfordshire County Council, St Albans City and District Council, Dacorum Borough Council, BRE Group, Rothamsted Research and the University of Hertfordshire.

About Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership

Hertfordshire LEP is one of 38 Local Enterprise Partnerships tasked by the Government to drive forward economic growth and develop Local Industrial Strategies that play to their individual strengths and address local challenges. The LEP has secured over £300m to date to invest in the county’s people, places and businesses. Find out more about Hertfordshire LEP and how it is targeting investment where it is needed most:

About the Local Growth Fund

Local Enterprise Partnerships are playing a vital role in driving forward economic growth across the country, helping to build a country that works for everyone.

That’s why by 2021 Government will have invested over £12bn through the Local Growth Fund, allowing LEPs to use their local knowledge to get all areas of the country firing on all cylinders.

Some additional key facts:

  • There are 38 LEPs covering the whole of England
  • The government has awarded £9.1bn in three rounds of Growth Deals to local areas to drive economic growth.
  • LEPs are investing in a wide range of projects including transport, skills, business support, broadband, innovation and flood defences.

For more information, go to or contact Claire Flawn, Sales & Marketing Manager, Tel: 01582 938500.

[1] As from 1 April 2018 BBSRC became part of United Kingdom Research and Innovation (UKRI) – established as a corporate body through the enactment of UK Higher Education and Research Act 2017 – with the property, rights and liabilities of BBSRC being acquired by UKRI.

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