As someone in the very fortunate position of owning and running a business from Oxfordshire exporting scientific instrumentation around the world, it’s easy for me to appreciate the contribution that suppliers and contractors from around the county are making to the local and national economy.

As a country, we’ve lived with austerity and uncertainty for six or seven years now. We’re also regularly told that we struggle to compete with manufacturing in other countries.

In some respects, this is true, however, innovations and cutting edge ideas generated by our small businesses is something we continue to do extremely well.

And while we’re innovating and finding high-value applications for specialist goods, software and services, something that we do from our company, Oxford Cryosystems in Long Hanborough, I think our future looks very bright indeed.

Like a number of companies in the county whose roots have a connection to the university, we operate in some niche and very interesting areas of science where we contribute to the forefront of research around the world. And what’s more, as a small business of only 20 people, I’m proud that I find our reach quite inspiring.

Our history and products are rooted in an area of science called X-ray crystallography, a relatively unknown but extremely important area of science which, to date, is responsible for some 28 Nobel Prizes: more than any other area of science.

As it happens, 2014 has been officially designated by UNESCO as the International Year of Crystallography. Our customers are crystallographers and they use X-rays to study the atomic and molecular structure of everything — from the medicines that we take and the virus and proteins they might affect, to the materials in your smartphone and the structure of DNA.

We even have one customer in the Netherlands who studies the structure of chocolate. Now there’s a job.

In fact, Oxfordshire is home to the nation’s synchrotron, Diamond Light Source, a large facility that not only employs hundreds of people, but also provides crystallographers from around the UK with some of the brightest X-rays with which to study their materials. Including chocolate.

At our facilities near Witney, we make coolers that help these scientists cool their samples down to around -190 degrees Celsius. The colder they go, the better their results. Ninety-two per cent of everything we build is sourced locally.

Coincidentally, we export a similar percentage, with users as far flung as the US, Brazil, Mexico, China, India, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and Korea. We even do cooling in Hawaii.

Our coolers are also being used in other extraordinary applications.

At the end of March, I flew with a colleague to South Africa. Having spent a few days consulting with our South African collaborators, we then took a two-hour Cessna flight from Cape Town out into the middle of the Karoo desert in the Northern Cape for the inauguration of a radio telescope.

And not just any radio telescope.

The ceremony was to mark the construction of the first ‘dish’ in a plan to build something called the Square Kilometre Array.

Not only will it be the largest telescope in the world, it will be the largest scientific instrument in the world, spreading out across Southern Africa and Australia.

Our own government has recently contributed £120m to the first phase and once the whole project is finished, some time in the next 15 years, it will contain thousands of 15-metre wide dishes, produce data at a rate equivalent to 15 Internets and will be sensitive enough to detect an airport radar 50 light years away.

Our coolers are designed into the first phase of dishes and are incorporated into the very sensitive receivers that are attached to the arm in front of the dish.

Cooling the electronics in these delicate receivers will help to increase their sensitivity — their ability to hear — to help scientists to answer the questions surrounding the origins of the universe, the big bang and Einstein’s Theory of Relativity.

So, if ET does have a mobile phone, it is possible that products developed and built here in Oxfordshire may even allow us to hear it ring.