Service sector firms have helped boost Oxfordshire recovery

James Brown, chief executive of Zinc Ahead

James Brown, chief executive of Zinc Ahead

First published in News

A NEW report highlights Oxfordshire as a recovery success story.

The county’s economy grew by 3.5 per cent last year, compared with the national rate of 3.2 per cent, making it the second-best-performing area in the south east.

And unemployment at 4.1 per cent is almost half the national level – 7.2 per cent – according to the Royal Bank of Scotland Regional Growth Tracker, published last week.

Economist Rupert Seggins says it is thanks to firms in the service sector, which includes scientific and biotechnology plus technological research and development.

He said: “Research and support firms based around technology are leading the way and playing an important role.

“Oxfordshire has been one of the recovery success stories of the UK and is up there with the best-performing of 97 areas we monitor.

“It is performing well above the national average.”

Zinc Ahead supplies software systems to pharmaceuticals firms, which must comply with stringent regulations.

It has clients in 160 countries, including Astra Zeneca and Johnson & Johnson, and employs 150 staff, 80 of whom work at its head office in Oxford Business Park.

Last year, it moved to a building twice the size and it now plans to recruit another 25 employees.

Chief executive James Brown said: “Companies are outsourcing more of what would have been within their offices, because it means lower IT overheads.

“And regulators across all industries are demanding greater compliance, so companies like us that help with that are doing well.”

Another example is Zigzag Associates, which provides quality assurance and auditing services to pharmaceutical and biotechnology firms.

Sales have doubled for the past four years and it is about to move to a bigger office at its Milton Park base.

It employs 14 staff there, along with 80 consultants around the world.

Chief executive Steve Smith said: “We use a cloud-based document management system, so staff work flexibly around the world. Many of our clients are pretty virtual themselves, so it’s easier for them to hire in a company, rather than maintain a huge department in-house.”

 

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