£25 million business and science park opened by Minister for Science

Dr Victor Christou and Dr Oleg Salata demonstrate Opsys technology to Lord Sainsbury

The future of academic research working alongside industrial laboratories and fledgling high-tech companies was witnessed by the Science and Innovation Minister, Lord Sainsbury, when he opened the Begbroke Business and Science Park on Friday, 16 June.

The 10-acre Park, which is owned and managed by the University, is one of the first sites in Europe to integrate leading edge university research in materials, chemistry, physics and engineering, with start-up businesses and commercial laboratories operated by some of the country's leading industrial companies.

Half the site has been set up as an academic materials research centre, concentrating on industry-backed applied research projects. Current research projects undertaken at Begbroke include recycled aluminium alloys for pollution-free cars and high-integrity long shelf life plastic packaging. The rest of the site has been set up to house a range of high technology companies, including recent University spin-out companies Nanox and Opsys. World class companies, including Rolls-Royce, Hewlett-Packard, Ford, AEA Technology, and Luxfer are among those already working closely with the Department of Materials at the £25 million site five miles north of Oxford. Lord Sainsbury said:

`Partnerships between the scientific community and business can play a valuable role in helping to create wealth and employment for this country. I have every confidence that Begbroke, with its mixture of world class companies and excellent scientific research, will have a significant impact and I look forward to hearing of its successes.'

Professor Brian Cantor, Cookson Professor of Materials and Head of the Department of Materials, explained: `Begbroke provides a unique opportunity for joint research between industry and academia. The close link between technology and fundamental science is already leading to new insights and exciting business opportunities.'

The Vice-Chancellor, Dr Colin Lucas, said: `Research has shown that spin-off companies which set up on business parks have an 85 per cent success rate, compared with under 50 per cent for those which continue to operate from university sites—and we believe that the integrated approach at Begbroke will prove to be a model copied widely elsewhere in the sector.'

The opening coincided with the announcement of a new £1.5 million joint research centre between the Ford Motor Company and the University to develop a state-of-the-art process for making stamping dies and moulds for metal and plastic parts.

Current manufacturing methods have not changed significantly for more than 75 years, with producing tools and stamping dies among the highest cost and most time consuming operations of new vehicle programmes.

However researchers at Ford and Oxford are now working on a new spray-formed tooling process which creates tools and dies by spraying molten steel onto a low-cast mould. Researchers at Ford together with Drs Patrick Grant and Stephen Duncan at OCAMAC (the Oxford Centre for Advanced Materials and Composites) are now working to scale-up and package the technology to make larger tool sets to meet Ford internal targets, and make the technology available for licence outside the automotive sector. With funding from Ford and the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, a full scale state-of-the-art pilot manufacturing system has been installed in a new dedicated laboratory at Begbroke.

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