Innovative Oxford : expanding

By: Smart Oxford : 08 August 2017

The Shared City: | experimenting | engaging | expanding | empowering

Oxford – top UK city for growth


Recognised as the top UK city for growth Oxford continues to be one of the UK’s fastest growing cities.

Home to over 5,000 businesses and 130,000 jobs, Oxford hosts two world class universities which, with leading research organisations in Oxfordshire, train over 45,000 students a year.

The city and its environs represent a unique set of clusters in big science, and research facilities including the world’s largest health big data institute, which opened in May, as well as Diamond Light Source, ISIS neutron & muon source, Medical Research Council facilities, Satellite Applications Catapult at Harwell Campus and Culham Centre for Fusion Energy.

Some groups and initiatives supporting our expansion as a centre of innovation are listed below.

   Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership

Launched in 2011 as part of a UK government initiative, the Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (OxLEP) is responsible for championing and developing the Oxfordshire economy.

Its Innovation Strategy aims to enhance and support our innovation-led economy, in order to sustain and grow our economy and contribute to the social good by supporting the development of innovative businesses and technologies.

Through its work leading inward investment it has identified and selected five priority sectors that represent strengths and opportunities for growth and that attract significant levels of foreign direct investment: Automotive & Motorsports; Creative & Digital; Electronics – Sensors & Instrumentation; Life Sciences; and Space and Satellite Technologies.

However this strategy does not focus on any specific sector, but rather on the underpinning elements and processes required for innovation across all sectors.

In addition, OxLEP’s Skills Strategy sets out the high level strategic priorities for Oxfordshire to 2020 which will support sustainable economic growth and that offers opportunity for all to participate in our thriving economy.

   University of Oxford

Ranked first in the world in the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings 2016-2017, the University of Oxford is the most prolific University innovator in Europe, and has produced more founders of billion-dollar startups than any other institution in Europe.

The University’s Knowledge Exchange Strategy focuses on using Oxford’s world-class research base, outstanding networks and strong convening power in the dynamic exchange of knowledge for social, cultural and economic benefit.

Its strategy was commended by HEFCE (Higher Education Funding Council for England) for “a focus on sustainable local growth, supporting the Oxfordshire high-tech cluster, and working closely with public and private sector partners and local communities.”

Oxford statistics

The University supports innovation-based engagement with our local community through a range of events such as Research Kitchen, Idea Idol, and Curiosity Carnival, and helps empower citizens in the city and the rest of the UK through innovations such as the OpenPrescribing platform from its EBM Datalab, which is creating open, innovative tools to help make science and healthcare data more accessible to all, as well as its open-to-all Enterprising Oxford portal to support entrepreneurs and its Oxplore website, to engage 11-18 year olds.

The University is also home to the Zooniverse, the world’s largest and most popular platform for people-powered research.

With over 10,000 staff and an ethos that each individual researcher or group should decide what they research, the University has taken an innovative approach to supporting those looking to engage with the University’s diverse research and innovation community, by setting up in 2016 the Research and Innovation Support Network (RISN) – over 300 people in research support roles embedded in departments and institutes across the University, and co-ordinated by a central Knowledge Exchange and Impact Team to make it as easy as possible for those interested in innovation with the University to find the right contact within the organisation.

Current University plans include the development of a new innovation district in the Osney Mead area of the city.

   Oxford Brookes University

Oxford Brookes University‘s well-established and growing international reputation for research has been confirmed with the publication of the UK Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014 results, which indicated that that 94% of its research is internationally recognised, with 59% judged to be of ‘world leading’ quality or ‘internationally excellent’.

A priority objective of its Knowledge Exchange Strategy is to “support the development and implementation of initiatives to realise the potential of Oxfordshire for sustainable economic growth, through participation in stakeholder forums, partnerships and collaborations“.

Oxford Brookes was recently named as one of the world’s most international universities by the Times Higher Education.

   Smart Oxford

Smart Oxford was launched in 2015 by the Oxford Strategic Partnership, with a wide range of local organisations including business, academic, not-for-profit and local government organisations.

Its vision is of a city where innovative ideas, active citizens, and aligned stakeholders come together to co-create a better Oxford.

Its aim is to identify, facilitate, promote and support innovation and the uptake of ideas to:

  • build a stronger, safer, economically and environmentally sustainable city;
  • help its people to identify and be part of city solutions;
  • provide a testbed for world class researchers and innovators, to generate growth and jobs;
  • advance economic & social prosperity; and
  • help improve the quality, effectiveness and efficiency of city services.

After the success of its Smart Oxford Challenge, the group this year launched the Smart Oxford Playable City Commission, inviting innovators, technologists and creative people from around the world to submit a distinctive idea that the city could uptake to engage citizens and help make Oxford more liveable, open and collaborative place.

   Oxfordshire Transformative Technologies Alliance

Created in 2017, the Oxfordshire Transformative Technologies Alliance (OTTA) was formed to lead in the delivery of a Science & Innovation Audit (SIA) submission to the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

The OTTA’s SIA focusses on four large scale, disruptive, inevitable, digital technologies, for which the UK has great need and world class strength particularly in Oxfordshire.

These are:

  • digital health;
  • space-led data applications;
  • autonomous vehicles; and
  • technologies underpinning quantum computing.

The analysis concentrated on opportunities to grow skills, companies and new jobs across the region up until 2030, as well as opportunities for building partnerships nationally and internationally.

The process of producing the audit has involved close collaboration between members of the core consortium (OxLEP, Oxford Brookes University, University of Oxford, STFC, UKAEA, the Satellite Applications Catapult, Oxford AHSN and Oxford University Innovation) and the involvement of a wide range of industrial partners.

   Oxford Academic Health Science Network

The Oxford Academic Health Science Network (Oxford AHSN) brings together academic groups, industry and the National Health Service to improve health and prosperity in our region through the rapid uptake of innovative ideas for clinical practice.

Its strategy is designed to:

  • Focus on the needs of patients and local populations – support and work in partnership with commissioners and public health bodies to identify and address unmet health and social care needs, whilst promoting health equality and best practice;
  • Speed up the uptake of innovative ideas into practice to improve clinical outcomes and patient experience – support the identification and more rapid uptake and spread of research evidence and innovation at pace and scale to improve patient care and local population health;
  • Build a culture of partnership and collaboration – promote inclusivity, partnership and collaboration to consider and address local, regional and national priorities;
  • Create wealth through co-development, testing, evaluation and early uptake and spread of new products and services

Oxford AHSN will this year share in £39m from the Office for Life Sciences to assess the benefits of new technologies and support National Health Service uptake of those that deliver real benefits to patients in line with local needs.

You can see some of the AHSN’s case studies here.


Nominet is an Oxford-based public-benefit company that envisions the internet as a powerful force for social and economic good, and makes it their business to maximise its positive impact.

Projects in Oxford include the support of Oxford’s citizen-based flood network initiative, its innovative use of white space technology and its Smart Parking application by Nominet’s Internet of Things Research Group. The company also ran the Smart Oxford Challenge, which led to the 2016 partnership of Ethos and Oxford Brookes University for their Future Parking Space Detection project.

Nominet is a founding partner of the Micro:bit Educational Foundation, a non-profit independent organisation founded in 2016 with the core mission to train, equip and support the coders of the future, to lower the barriers for young people accessing technological innovation.

Its charity arm, the Nominet Trust, is the leading social tech funder in the UK.

   Culham Smart Community

Now in the planning phase, Culham Smart Community is a living test bed with new houses designed around integrated transport (road, rail) that adopts the latest green technology and community thinking and makes space for emerging digital technologies.

By linking with other smart city projects around Oxford and its environs, the intention is to attract global attention from companies, researchers, investors and governments. Locating the community adjacent to the Culham Science Centre also means that we create a link between high tech jobs and 21st century living.

   Oxford Academic Health Science Centre

The Oxford Academic Health Science Centre (Oxford AHSC) coordinates clinical and academic excellence within Oxford University, Oxford Brookes University, Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust and Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

The Oxford AHSC is an integrated research environment, physically and strategically embedding basic and translational research with clinical evaluation. Using this, the partnership seeks to accelerate and realise patient benefit by the uptake of ideas emerging from research via their smooth transition through the stages of the research lifecyle and into clinical practice.

   The MobOx Foundation

The MobOx Foundation (Mobility Oxford) CIC aims to improve the experience of transportation in and around the city of Oxford by creating open systems, processes, and technologies that will benefit residents, businesses, and visitors alike.

The CIC is a partnership between entrepreneurial SME’s, both Oxford’s Universities, and the County and City Councils – it is an important part of Smart Oxford leading on Mobility theme. MobOx has already worked on developing new projects in mobility along with 20 partners ranging from multinational organisations to start-ups and recently formed a development and learning partnership with Team Aguri Formula E team.

MobOx will develop solutions that integrate technological and social solutions, based on the premise that integrated transportation is a complex system of interactions between people and technology.

This living laboratory will work across all the dimensions of the mobility challenge such as mobility devices, communication, infrastructure, services, and event retail.

   The Fast Growth Cities Group

The Fast Growth Cities group, comprised of Cambridge, Oxford, Milton Keynes, Swindon and Norwich, contains some of the UK’s most successful cities. These cities perform strongly on a range of economic indicators, including productivity and share of knowledge-based jobs.

Their ability to attract these knowledge-based businesses puts them in a strong position to continue to grow in the future. This report looks at the economic contribution of the Fast Growth Cities to the UK, highlighting their shared and distinctive economic characteristics that make supporting these cities important.

It also examines the key barriers to growth the cities are increasingly facing, and that need to be overcome to allow these cities to continue to contribute to the UK economy at the rate they have been.

Oxford is working with the National Infrastructure Commission on how local authorities, local enterprise partnerships and central government can work to develop and deliver an integrated strategic plan for infrastructure, housing and jobs for the Oxford-Milton Keynes-Cambridge corridor.

   Oxford Sciences Innovation

Oxford Sciences Innovation is turning a thousand years of world-beating science into the next generation of worldleading companies.

They search Oxford’s Math, Physical, Life Sciences, Medical Sciences, Computer Sciences and Engineering divisions for ideas the world might not yet understand and for the seeds of entirely new possibilities.

Their philosophy is that no idea is too early – with a team that aims to help write business plans, create pitches, recruit the board and set up the company.

So far, they have raised £580M to build the ecosystem that brings Oxford’s ideas to the world.

   Oxford Investment Opportunity Network

With a particular interest in companies with a strong barrier to entry, Oxford Investment Opportunity Network (OION) works with entrepreneurs and companies seeking to raise finance by connecting them with highly active potential investors (‘business angels’), who frequently provide commercial experience and contacts, in addition to vital capital.

OION was established in 1994 as one of the UK’s first business angel networks, and will consider any company with a strong vision for growth and seeking investment from £200k to ~£2 million.

They link qualified Investors (High Net Worth, Sophisticated and Institutional) to companies with high growth potential.

Following the success of the OION 2015 & 2016 SEIS Funds, OION announced the launch of The OION Fund – investing in to both EIS & SEIS qualifying companies.

   Oxford Business Park

Expansion continues at the award-winning Oxford Business Park.

Park owners Goodmans are currently constructing a new 45,000 ft2 headquarters for Nielsen, who will be moving into the new state of the art facility in the first half of 2018.

   Oxford University Innovation

Oxford University Innovation (OUI), the research commercialisation company for Oxford University, has helped make it the most prolific University for innovation in Europe.

OUI launched 24 companies in 2016 with a combined £52.6m in early stage funding, setting a new record in spinout generation for the UK and Europe.

Spinouts (companies based on Oxford University intellectual property) account for 21 of the new firms. This more than doubles OUI’s performance in 2015 (10 spinouts) and sets a new record for spinout companies emerging from a higher education institution in Europe.

OUI also improved its year-on-year performance for licences sold, with 115 in 2016, while patents filed increased from 99 to 118.

The 2016 spinout cohort is spread across a number of sectors, including aeronautics, wireless energy transfer, regenerative medicine, big data, and virtual reality.

OUI helps empower our local innovation ecosystem through initiatives such as Idea Idol, an ideas-pitching competition open to the public and all citizens of Oxford.

In May, OUI was awarded Tech Transfer Unit of the Year by Global University Venturing.

Case Study: OxSight

A spinout of the University of Oxford, OUI launched OxSight in 2016, with aim to develop, validate and distribute sight enhancing technologies to improve the quality of life for blind and partially sighted individuals around the world.

The group combines decades of experience from neuroscience, ophthalmology, computer vision and machine learning with an international management team that have a proven record for realising the full potential of revolutionary new technologies.

The OxSight smart glasses use a unique camera system and computer vision algorithms to detect and highlight objects, separating them from the background in real-time. This allows people with even the lowest amount of sight make better use of their vision in challenging everyday scenarios.

In a recent UK-wide trial its smart glasses helped sight impaired and blind people to navigate independently, avoid collisions and see in the dark.

Participants reported that they were able to describe people standing several meters away and in some cases even recognise their faces and expressions.


Created in 2016, OxReach is an Oxford-based crowdsourcing platform designed to provide opportunities for funding for the uptake of ideas from Oxford University innovators where an Oxford initiative with tangible social impact falls between the silos of research and commercial funding.

The initiative is a collaboration between Oxford University Innovation, the University’s Development Office and educational crowdfunding specialist Hubbub.

Case Study:

LIFE (Life-saving Instruction For Emergencies) is a phone app and immersive virtualreality game developed in 2016 by Prof Mike English (Department of Tropical Medicine) that combines cutting-edge medical research with the latest virtual reality gaming technology to teach healthcare workers in remote areas how to respond to birth and neonatal emergencies.

The project was the first on the University’s crowdfunding platform.

LIFE is in partnership with HTC to further develop low-cost virtual reality scenarios using their new HTC Vive VR headsets. HTC donated £20k to the crowdfunding campaign and provided Vive VR headsets.

The crowdfunded money was used to leverage match funding from the University of Oxford Wellcome Trust Institutional Strategic Support Fund which allowed the team to undertake a qualitative evaluation of LIFE.

A Seed Award of approximately $118,000 from Saving Lives at Birth: A Grand Challenge for Development (USAID, the Government of Norway, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Grand Challenges Canada, DFID, KOICA).

   Oxford Structural Genomics Consortium

The Structural Genomics Consortium is a not-for-profit, public-private partnership with the directive to carry out basic science of relevance to drug discovery.

Since its inception in 2004, the SGC has shared all research results and output with no restrictions on use, and without filing patents as a core principle.

This approach protects against waste and duplication of effort, and catalyses innovation by facilitating scientific exchange that is unencumbered by intellectual property considerations.

The consortium consists of over 200 scientists from 6 research institutions across the globe, and 13 representatives from the Pharma and Biotech industry.

Outcomes to date include more than 25 ongoing clinical trials and the creation of many start-up companies.

In 2017, it was announced that the Canadian government was committing another $33m to the SCG.


Founded in November 2016, LAB282 is a partnership between Oxford University Innovation, Oxford Sciences Innovation, a university venture fund manager for the University with £580m under management, and Germany-based global biotech Evotec, created to provide funding to translate basic research into innovation through focused drug discovery programmes and to identify and develop innovative approaches to treating serious diseases.

LAB282 was set up to address a lack of funding to help translate basic research in disease-related biological pathways into focused drug discovery programmes.

It seeks to address this unmet need, to stimulate the formation of new companies to develop ground-breaking therapies and ultimately to generate patient benefit, and provides funding and expertise to achieve pre-clinical proof of concept for ground-breaking therapeutics, accelerating drug discovery in Oxford.

   Wood Centre for Innovation

Under development, the Oxford Trust’s new 35,000 ft2 Wood Centre for Innovation at Stansfeld Park will provide much in demand ‘grow-on’ space for businesses together with a science education centre for primary school students.

The centre will provide office space for early-stage science and technology companies, capitalising on the proximity to the city’s growing health and data sciences quarter and Oxford Brookes University.

Under its sustainable business model, the innovation centre will support a new education centre and its programmes, making the centre self-sustaining. The Trust’s plans also include a café and theatre which will be available for corporate events, shows, demonstrations and talks.

The £5.6 million contract was awarded in April 2017 to build the new innovation centre, which will feature the UK’s first indoor-outdoor science education centre for primary school-aged children, their teachers and families.

The development received a further boost in July of this year, in the form of funding to develop a LiveLab zone on the site. The LiveLab will be a curated, bespoke space for children to experience a research environment and to meet real working scientists and engineers. Equipped with video/camera capabilities, laboratory benches, microscopes and more, this exciting space will be used for scientist-led demonstrations featuring researchers from Oxford’s world-leading universities and innovative companies, alongside its own staff.

   Oxford Hackspace

Oxford Hackspace is a welcoming community tools workshop in Oxford city centre, that anyone can join.

In equal parts inventor’s skunkworks, crafter’s paradise, startup accelerator and social change hub, it also runs workshops and operates a prototyping service for local businesses to get new products made.

People are welcome to come work in 3D printing, laser cutting, wood, metal, electronics, sewing, programming, radio, shoemaking, stained glass, social change, or anything else in the company a like-minded and skilled community of makers.

In October it held RiverHack 1.0, a hackathon bringing together citizens and waterway-related groups to find innovative ways to address the challenges to river health.

   Oxford Technology Park

Infrastructure work has started for Oxford Technology Park, a new £90m science and technology park which will provide R&D and hi-tech space for Oxfordshire’s growing A34 Knowledge Economy Spine. The park is capable of creating 4,000 jobs. The first buildings could be available from as early as 2018.

The park will be part of north Oxford’s technology cluster alongside the University of Oxford’s Begbroke Campus, Oxford Industrial Park, the Langford Lane Business Parks and Langford Locks.

   Begbroke Science Park

Owned and managed by Oxford University Begbroke Science Park is a pioneering development, where world-class scientists work alongside colleagues from industry, decision-makers and entrepreneurs to translate cutting-edge research into commercial opportunities.

Begbroke is more than a conventional science park. Closely integrated with Oxford’s science and technology departments, it is a conduit for knowledge and technology transfer between researchers and entrepreneurs, helping them to forge dynamic partnerships.

Its flexible, supportive environment encourages links between high-tech science-based spinouts, their more established counterparts and the University.

The interaction between industry and learning constantly produces new synergies, and it supports entrepreneurs as they translate those synergies into innovations which meet tomorrow’s industrial challenges.

Its research strength in applied materials science attracts aerospace and transport multi-nationals, and worldwide brands such as Formula One. Cross-disciplinary research labs research solutions to global issues, such as how to provide sustainable energy, clean water and recycling resource; whilst commercial spin-outs use these discoveries to develop game-changing products that will change the way we live and work. In life sciences, Begbroke’s researchers look for novel drug therapies and devices to diagnose and treat cancer, diabetes and muscle-wasting disease more effectively.

   Centre for Innovation and Enterprise

The Centre for Innovation and Enterprise (CIE) offers high-tech, knowledge-based, start-up and spin-out companies a unique professional environment in which to expand and grow.

Based at Begbroke Park, the CIE offers flexible office and laboratory space with the full range of services that companies require for start-up, and the flexibility to grow and expand into more space, as and when they need it.

The centre’s 15,000 sq ft of office and laboratory space, arranged over two floors, has been designed for maximum flexibility in use. For example, innovative use of service risers means that specialist facilities can be installed easily and cost-effectively as companies request them.

The Centre for Innovation and Enterprise offers new companies far more than just serviced incubation units. As a core component of the Oxford University Begbroke Science Park, the CIE and other site tenants are able to access Oxford University’s science and technology departments. Occupiers of the CIE therefore have the unique benefit of access to Oxford University’s world-leading research programmes and opportunities to talk with experts in the field.

In the same spirit, the CIE hosts regular networking events to provide opportunities for exchange of ideas with business advisers and like-minded entrepreneurs.

   Begbroke Innovation Accelerator

Part-funded by the Oxford and Oxfordshire City Deal, the Begbroke Innovation Accelerator was opened in March 2017 at Begbroke Science Park.

An extension to Begbroke’s Centre for Innovation and Enterprise, the new multi-use building will help small and medium-sized science businesses to take their projects to market.

The building provides facilities for researchers from the University developing new innovative products and technologies, with the site’s primary focus being on the advanced engineering sectors of automotive, nuclear materials, advanced materials, robotics, as well as in nano-medicine, pharmaceuticals, energy storage and supercomputing.

   The Entrepreneurship Centre

The Entrepreneurship Centre at Oxford Saïd provides a range of programming to educate and develop an entrepreneurial mindset. The aim is to give its students the skills and support to either start their own venture or to be a force for entrepreneurial change within existing organizations.

The Centre nurtures student teams with business ideas and supports their evolution into successful ventures. It provides support, resources, connections, and innovative programmes that have global impact. Crucially, students get hands-on experience turning theory into practice, and ideas into breakthrough businesses.

The Centre also disseminates cutting-edge entrepreneurship research into policy and practice. It runs a number of educational programmes throughout the academic year, designed to inspire, engage and accelerate students’ entrepreneurial knowledge and progress

seed fund

The centre also helps administer the Oxford Seed Fund, a student-led fund that invests up to £50k in early-stage ventures founded by Oxford students and alumni. It offers funding and support to early-stage ventures with a University of Oxford connection.

The Seed Fund team is made up of Oxford Saïd MBA students, and a new team is appointed at the start of each academic year. Supported and guided by the Entrepreneurship Centre, the team takes on the soliciting of funding applications and the sourcing of deals, undertakes due diligence, and makes the final investment decisions.

   OUI Startup Incubator

The OUI Startup Incubator supports nascent software ventures in the development of products or services and assists them to trade without external investment.

The Startup Incubator is free and aimed at members and ex-members of the University of Oxford wanting to start or grow entrepreneur-driven ventures.

It offers a wide spectrum of support services including commercial mentoring, Intellectual Property advice, assistance in identifying potential customers, enquiry handling and advice on formation of a limited company.

it also provides ventures with 24/7 access to a joint development space, and shared IT facilities.

While all ventures share software as a theme, their application fields vary from energy usage analysis through text analytics to social media networks and data analysis.

   The FAB Accelerator

The FAB Accelerator is home to a programme for entrepreneurs and startups, open to individuals and teams from all backgrounds and sectors.

FAB combines weekly evening classes covering key startup business topics, each delivered by expert speakers and special guests, with regular 1-to-1 sessions with expert business mentors.

   Oxford Science Park

The Oxford Science Park and is owned and managed by Magdalen College, one of Oxford University’s oldest and most famous colleges with a tradition of academic excellence and entrepreneurship.

The Park upholds the College’s heritage and provides one of the most influential science, technology and business environments in the UK for more than 2,500 people in over 70 companies, ranging from start-ups to SMEs and multi-national organisations, in 75 acres of grounds.

The park has outlined plans for major expansion, and the UK The Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation recently visited the site to take part in an official ground-breaking ceremony for a £13 million state of the art new office and laboratory building capable of accommodating 500 people.

The Park also encourages innovation through its annual sponsorship of an Oxford Science Park Innovation Award, open to any local organisation irrespective of size or sector, including both start-ups and established businesses.

   The Oxford BioEscalator

The Oxford BioEscalator, under construction at the University of Oxford’s Churchill Campus for Medical Sciences will serve the specialist growth needs of bio-tech businesses and operate in a 55,000 ft2 centre, located adjacent to new investors Novo Nordisk, who announced a £155m investment in an Oxford diabetes research centre in 2017.

The University of Oxford’s Old Road Campus in Headington now houses one of the largest concentrations of biomedical expertise in the world.

The new BioEscalator building will be a hub for the commercialisation of bioscience and medical research and innovation in Oxford, with the aim to help more innovative ideas to move out of the lab and into the clinic and in doing so to realise the potential of the world-class research and expertise in Oxford.

It will be a key meeting point for entrepreneurial researchers, clinicians, medical entrepreneurs and a wide range of bioscience companies.

The BioEscalator, by bringing together university and hospital scientists, many industries, funding organisations, investment communities, patient groups and entrepreneurs, will accelerate the creation of many new companies, and with it jobs in Oxford and its environs.

Public space within the BioEscalator will encourage interactions and networking opportunities for emerging businesses, established enterprises, researchers, entrepreneurs, and investors that will foster entrepreneurship and commercial developments and help business ideas in this sector to emerge, start-up, grow and move onto larger science parks in the region.

For start-up companies there will be a range of services as well as laboratory and office space.

£11m of funding has been provided by central government via the City Deal and there will also be a contribution from the University.

It will be one of four new innovation centres in Oxford and its environs (two in Oxford: the BioEscalator and the Begbroke Accelerator, and one each at Harwell and Culham).

   The Foundry

Opened in October 2017, the Foundry is housed in a Victorian warehouse and ice factory, which up until recently was a comedy club.

The building has been stripped back to expose its architectural heritage to signal that this is a place to roll up your sleeves, get hands on, and deliver start-ups.

The Foundry is a space for all students attending the University of Oxford regardless of what they study, and Oxford Alumni. It provides core programming modelled on the successful Oxford Launchpad established in 2014.

Its aim is to get around 20% of the student population, 4,000 people, through the doors and become known around the world for helping entrepreneurs in the making.

The purpose of The Oxford Foundry is to:

  • Send a strong signal of entrepreneurialism to the global community;
  • Create an entrepreneurial community across the whole University Oxford;
  • Inspire an entrepreneurial mind set;
  • Promote entrepreneurial skills development;
  • Support entrepreneurial venture creation

   MedTech Accelerator


The MedTech Accelerator is a programme devised by Bionow and funded by STFC which delivered tailored business support for medical technology SMEs.

   ESA Business Incubation Centre


The ESA Business Incubation Centre provides a unique opportunity to access world class scientific facilities and research including that of the Diamond Light Source and STFC’s Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) – home to its internationally renowned space science department RAL Space, the world’s most powerful pulsed neutron source ISIS and the Central Laser Facility.

The Incubation Centre started its operations in 2011 and is managed by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC).

It is located at Harwell Campus, a world leading science, technology and business campus south of Oxford with more than 4,500 researchers, engineers and innovators from over 150 high-tech organisations, and a focal point and cluster for the UK’s rapidly growing high-tech space community.

Applications can be submitted at any time and are reviewed after each application deadline. The next application deadline is 27th October 2017.

   The Disruptive Innovation for Space Centre

The Satellite Applications Catapult, with support from Innovate UK, is this year creating a Disruptive Innovation for Space Centre (DISC) to tackle a number of critical challenges facing the UK space industry. DISC will provide equipment and expertise to enable UK companies to accelerate the process of creating innovative new products and growing their businesses.

The aim is to support innovators and SMEs who are restricted in the availability of high-tech laboratory space, as the design, manufacturing and test equipment is consistently too expensive to both acquire and maintain. While generic small-scale manufacturing capability exists in the UK, the lack of association of such capabilities with specialist digital and radio frequency test equipment necessary severely constrains the ability of SMEs to innovate.

It will serve people and groups who struggle to access the broad network of world-class experts required to develop truly innovative products.

Space Centre

DISC addresses these challenges for UK industry by providing access to capabilities that integrate digital design, rapid prototyping, automated testing and manufacturing technologies. These are geared towards the acceleration of innovation; testing of disruptive ideas and technologies; and manufacturing of prototype products.

The world-class facility will support industrial and academic teams in taking an innovative R&D project from proof of concept all the way through to a full sized prototype, manufactured at quality levels and scales sufficient to undertake end-customer validation. Access to DISC will be charged at competitive rates and teams will be able to base themselves at DISC throughout the project’s duration.

The current proposed technology domains are:

  • Modelling and design laboratory
  • Engineering and prototype workshop
  • High frequency and digital RF and test laboratory
  • Prototype production & assembly
  • Specialist satellite assembly and test.

The Satellite Applications Catapult engages with and shares its vision for innovation with the citizens of Oxford through events such as this month’s family workshop The Future of Earth from Space in Oxford’s Museum of Modern Art.

   Smart Oxford Incubator

Oxford City Council has this year secured ERDF funding to provide 250m2 of re-fitted space within the Town Hall to act as a hub and focal point for collaborative, open innovation, specifically enabling the development of two key technology focussed sector networks, namely:

  • Smart Oxford: a county-wide commitment to develop efficient and effective use of data and technology for the benefit of its citizens.

  • Digital Oxford: a network of 21,000 digital minds; two world-class universities; an international gaming hub; 30 monthly meet-ups; nine major business parks; three massive tech conferences; a digital industry worth £500m.

In addition, there will be a focus on social projects that impact on the delivery of public services and community engagement.

This project provides an opportunity to scale up the Smart Oxford initiative and the approach is two-fold:

  • The ‘Smart Oxford Incubator’ – a collaborative co-working space that will be used to nurture and accelerate business growth related to ‘Smart City’ products, services and applications. In turn, this potentially enhances the development of digital and perhaps social enterprise sectors, and promotes public sector innovation and commercialisation.

  • Dedicated, fixed-term (3 years), staff resourcing for Smart Oxford to ensure closer collaboration for the uptake of ideas to boost sector development, and deliver products and services that will genuinely benefit the public sector and city residents.

Work on progressing this is expected to take place later this year.

   IMAGINE IF! Accelerator

Oxford has this year joined Innovation Forum’s IMAGINE IF! network of innovators as one of 16 branches competing for the non-dilutive funding as part of the IMAGINE IF! accelerator programme.

The accelerator provides early stage science startups with extensive opportunities: mentorship, training, the potential to secure non-dilutive capital, free advice from leading professional services companies and rapid networking across the Innovation Forum platform.

Innovation Forum will be holding its Innovation Forum Leaders Conference 2017 in Oxford later this year.

   Osney Mead Innovation District

Currently at the proposal stage, and adjoining the city’s Oxpens development, the University of Oxford and other stakeholders are planning a £600m development of the Osney Mead site as an innovation district close to the city centre and University.

The current plan is to provide:

  • a knowledge park
  • provision of flexible research and commercial space (offices and laboratories);
  • conference and supporting facilities for continuing professional development; and
  • housing for people involved in research

The University is currenly seeking the views of local residents and stakeholders to help identify key issues which need to be addressed in taking the proposals forward.