A £108.6million Government investment is set to take Oxfordshire’s knowledge economy into a new era, with the University of Oxford playing a key role.
The Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership’s Growth Deal with the Government aims to drive growth by meeting the needs of the county's science and knowledge-rich economy. The investment will build on the strength of the links between industry and academic research, and deliver the skills and infrastructure to allow them to prosper.
The University is working closely with the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and other partners on the Deal, which could help create up to 5,700 jobs, allow more than 4,000 new homes to be built and generate more than £100m in public and private investment.
One highlight of the deal is a new University-based Centre for Applied Superconductivity. University experts in this fast-developing field will be able to work with local business on developments in fields including cryogenics, MRI scanning and electricity storage.
Investment is also earmarked for improving the county's transport infrastructure, including around the University’s Old Road campus, location of the Oxford Bioescalator innovation centre. The package will also fund improved flood protection and greater investment in the county’s skills base.
Professor Andrew Hamilton, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford, said: 'The Oxfordshire Growth Deal will build on the strong contribution the University's scientific strength already makes to the region’s knowledge-based economy. The Deal will also deliver a modern, sustainable infrastructure in which research and enterprise can thrive and work together. We and our colleagues in the Local Enterprise Partnership look forward to developing this exciting and vibrant community of new skills, jobs and businesses at the highest international level of scientific and technological innovation.
'The Oxford Centre for Applied Superconductivity will research new products and processes in such vital areas as medical imaging, green energy and quantum technologies. We also aim to develop world-leading expertise and a new generation of highly-trained scientists for the growing number of Oxfordshire companies working in this increasingly important technology. The scheme promises to be an outstanding example of Oxford University's academic expertise working both to benefit the local economy and to tackle global concerns.'
The Prime Minister, David Cameron, said: 'This historic deal means real change for Oxfordshire including better transport links to connect businesses and ease commutes, reducing the risk of flooding to protect homes and businesses, and investing in skills in key sectors such as science, engineering and technology.'
The University has been a world leader in the science of superconductors since the pioneering work of Sir Martin Wood in the Clarendon Laboratory in the 1950s and 1960s. The Departments of Materials and Physics will work together in the new Centre, providing research expertise, skilled employees and technological solutions both for major industrial partners and small and medium enterprises exploiting the unique properties of superconducting materials.
The Government has committed £4.5million for the new Centre, with a further £2million to come from the University and the partners. Key technical areas that it will tackle include new joining technologies which the industry will need for new magnet designs and to comply with changes in environmental legislation, and the applications of superconductivity in quantum technologies.
Professor Chris Grovenor, Head of the Department of Materials, said: 'A huge fraction of the UK's applied superconducting industry lies within 20 miles of Oxford. The new Centre will provide a focus of scientific and technical expertise that industry can call on to solve their current and upcoming technological problems and to remain ahead of the international competition.'
Caption: Defence secretary Phillip Hammond (centre left) shakes hands with Oxfordshire County council leader Ian Hudspeth at the launch the Oxfordshire Growth Deal in Harwell. Professor Chris Grovenor, Head of Oxford University's Materials Department, is second on the left.