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£1bn hi-tech firms booster to county
HI-TECH firms have the potential to add an extra £1bn to the Oxfordshire economy in the next 10 years.
That is the conclusion of a major report into the potential of the science and technology sector in the county being launched today by Science Minister David Willetts at the Said Business School, Oxford.
But that will not be achieved unless the road and rail infrastructure is improved, more space is provided for growing and start-up businesses and more houses are built for workers, the study alleges.
The report, The Oxfordshire Innovation Engine – Realising the Growth Potential, was written by economic consultants SQW, owner of Oxford Innovation and commissioned by Oxford University and Science Oxford, with support from the Local Enterprise Partnership.
It highlights firms’ success in the fields of medical and bioscience, high performance engineering, space, information technology and physics-related activity including cryogenics and medical instruments.
Companies like Oxford Instruments based at Tubney Woods, near Abingdon, software giant Sophos based in Abingdon and drug discovery firm Evotec in Milton Park are all highlighted as examples of the success that can be generated in the county.
Biotech firm Immunocore, battery developer Nexeon, both based in Milton Park and Woodstock-based medical device manufacturer Owen Mumford are also flagged up as stars of the future.
The report says Oxfordshire has outstanding science and research facilities that are “unique in Europe and possibly worldwide” with 1,500 hi-tech firms employing 43,000 staff.
But it stresses there are major hurdles such as worsening traffic congestion due to “inadequate” roads, skills shortages and high house prices.
It recommends developing a “knowledge economy spine” supporting housing and job creation in the key areas of Bicester, Oxford and south Oxfordshire.
It wants improvements to roads, particularly the A34 and developing space for new and growing firms at sites such as a redeveloped Oxford rail station and by expanding facilities such as Begbroke Science Park and the Churchill Hospital campus.
Former science minister Lord Drayson, who runs Kidlington-based green racing car developer Drayson Racing Technologies, said: “This report comes at a time when the debate about the generation of growth and jobs from science is high on the political agenda.
“It shines a light on the strength, scale and quality of the science and hi-tech business base in the region.
“I am convinced that not only is now a great time to be building a tech company in Oxfordshire, but never has it been more important for the UK that such companies are successful.”
Professor Andrew Hamilton, vice chancellor of Oxford University, said: “We welcome this assessment and the opportunities for growth that creating an even more vibrant environment for entrepreneurial activity could bring.”
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