The Rt Hon Dr Vince Cable MP, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, visited Oxford University on 13 February to hear more about how world-class Oxford research gets translated into commercial applications with benefits for the economy, health and the environment.
During his visit he observed the development of next-generation solar cells, seeing how scientists are finding ways to generate renewable energy from a wide variety of surfaces and materials. Solid-state dye-sensitised solar cell technology has been developed by Oxford scientists at the Clarendon Laboratory led by Professor Henry Snaith of the Oxford Martin School and Department of Physics and a university spin-out company, Oxford Photovoltaics Ltd, has been created to commercialise it.
He also saw how engineers and medics have worked together to create a device that can keep organs alive outside the body, increasing the number of organs available for transplant.
OrganOx Ltd is developing a device for sustaining organs outside the body using blood at normal body temperatures. The device was invented by transplant surgeon Professor Peter Friend of the Nuffield Department of Surgical Sciences, and biomedical engineer Professor Constantin Coussios of the Department of Engineering Science. In the first instance, it will be used to improve and prolong preservation and transportation of livers before transplantation.
The OrganOx technology allows livers to be preserved for up to three days – more than three times longer than is possible by conventional cold storage – and the company expects that it will also allow livers currently deemed unsuitable for transplantation to recover to an acceptable standard for transplant.
Business Secretary Vince Cable said: 'Oxford University is a powerhouse of science and research covering a wide range of academic disciplines. Today I saw how it is also bridging the gap between the lab and the marketplace by turning its leading expertise into cutting-edge new products.'
The Secretary of State also spoke to those involved in both undergraduate and postgraduate access and funding; and to those involved in translating research into commercial enterprise.
In addition, he saw how digitisation is transforming the humanities when he met Professor Kathryn Sutherland (of the Faculty of English), who has put Jane Austen's handwritten manuscripts online.