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Firms need city to become more like USA, say bosses
OXFORDSHIRE’s gro-wth as a centre for high-tech industry could be stunted by poor infrastructure and a limited labour pool.
That is the view of top entrepreneurs who claim it is easier to do business in the United States, where there is better resources.
Peter Wrighton-Smith, founder of Abingdon-based biotech firm Oxford Immunotec, said: “Being in Oxford was helpful in the early days. The city has many services to support start-ups. But later on it became less important for us to be here. In fact, we have found it easier to grow our business in the US than in the UK.
“The cost of living in Oxford and the limited labour pool in the area has sometimes made it difficult to hire enough staff. And there is a pressing need to improve the county’s transport infrastructure and build more housing.
“This will help to create a much broader labour pool for rapidly growing businesses like ours to tap into.”
Mr Wrighton-Smith was backed by Ian Crosbie, senior vice president of corporate development at Oxford-based Circassia, which specialises in allergy treatments including those for cats and grass.
He added: “There’s a human side to this problem. If a life sciences employee moves from California to Boston for a job and the company folds two years later, they can walk down the road and pick up another job in the same sector.
“If you move from the US to Oxford and the job or the company disappears, there isn’t a big enough sector for you to easily find more work. It’s too risky for many to move here.
“We need a bigger group of potential employers in the city and we need to see some success from recent Government initiatives to really help boost the Oxfordshire area.”
Mr Wrighton-Smith and Mr Crosbie recently participated in an entrepreneurs debate hosted by David Mott, managing partner at investment firm Oxford Capital.
He said: “A new generation of entrepreneurs has emerged in the Oxford cluster and created value in excess of £1bn in recent months.
“This success demonstrates the powerhouse that the Oxford technology cluster has become, bringing together technological excellence, entrepreneurial flair and venture backing in one concentrated area.
“But it is clear it needs to do more to support fast growth business by investing in its infrastructure if it is to continue to build on this success.”
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