Oxfordshire’s Innovation Engine – the region’s pivotal role in UK’s ambition to be a scientific superpower

Business leaders and academics alike have welcomed an insightful new report and interactive dashboard published by Advanced Oxford in conjunction with Elsevier


Oxfordshire’s Innovation Engine 2023 report assesses the growth of the region’s science and technology ecosystem over the last 10 years, the challenges ahead and puts forward six actionable recommendations to help Oxfordshire support the government’s ambition for the UK to be a scientific superpower by 2030.

The report was launched at a prestigious event at The Oxford Trust’s Wood Centre for Innovation on 6th June 2023, which was attended by over 100 guests including Professor Sir John Bell and leading Research & Development based companies from across Oxfordshire.

This latest research looks at the progress that has been made in the decade since the first Oxfordshire Innovation Engine report, Realising the Growth Potential 2013, was published. Pulling together a wealth of data, the new report reveals the region has 2,950 high-tech businesses employing nearly 29,000 people, while Oxfordshire’s knowledge economy contributed £2.4 billion to the UK economy (Gross Value Added in 2021) – a 72% growth in GVA compared to 2013.

It is clear from the report that Oxfordshire has a thriving innovation ecosystem with a flourishing community of spin-outs and start-ups. In fact, 64% of the region’s businesses are innovation-active according to the UK Innovation Survey and 5,700 patent applications have been made by Oxfordshire based firms and institutions in the last five years (to 2022).

As well as confirming Oxfordshire’s position as a global scientific powerhouse, the report identifies constraints which could impede future growth of the science and research sector in Oxfordshire, and similarly other regions in the UK. The report highlights the need to improve data connectivity, power infrastructure and the transport system, which could all be a block to future growth and need to be addressed if the UK’s ambition to be a scientific superpower is to be realised.

Although the region’s science parks and campuses have grown substantially in the last decade, space also remains a challenge with the demand for office and laboratory floorspace exceeding one million square foot. This mismatch of supply and demand is driving inflation in rents. Furthermore, the report reveals that technology-focused businesses in the county still tend to be male dominated, in both their formation and leadership, with only 18% having at least one female founder.

“Advanced Oxford intends that this report acts as a stimulus to Oxfordshire’s innovation community, to come together, to drive the next decade of prosperity, to build a forward-looking and resilient economy. New mechanisms and structures are needed – Advanced Oxford will play its part – but a collective endeavour is needed if Oxfordshire’s innovation ecosystem is to flourish, strengthen and play a pivotal role in making the UK a beacon for science, technology, and innovation.” – Sarah Haywood, Managing Director of Advanced Oxford


Oxfordshire’s Innovation Engine 2023 is published alongside a new ‘innovation dashboard’ designed by Elsevier for the Oxfordshire region. The dashboard draws together a set of indicators that attempt to characterise the ecosystem, giving a timely and relevant picture of the knowledge economy across the region. It is intended that this dashboard will be enhanced and developed as new data inputs become available.

“I welcome the work by Advanced Oxford and Elsevier to draw together this report and dashboard. It is timely, given the UK’s ambition to be a scientific superpower. Oxfordshire has an enormous contribution to make to the UK ambition, but we cannot be complacent. There is still a lot that needs to be done if we want to realise the full potential of this region to solve some of the most pressing, global challenges we face.

“The Oxford region has the ideas and the talent to be a leader in innovation, but we need to see greater leadership, investment and we need to solve some of our most pressing infrastructure problems. Oxfordshire’s Innovation Engine 2023 provides a stimulus for the region to come together to drive forward our innovation ecosystem.” – Professor Sir John Bell, Speaking at the launch event

The report calls for action to address the challenges and sets out six recommendations:

  • Strengthen leadership across the region in relation to innovation.
  • The City Council and the County Council need to work together to develop a much needed, future-looking transport system, which is Oxfordshire-wide, not just focused on the City of Oxford.
  • Grow and diversify the number of risk capital investors operating within the region.
  • Develop a new, clear, strategy, with collective buy-in, for inward investment into the region. Different players within the ecosystem need to work together to ensure that Oxfordshire is open, coherent and can respond to potential investors.
  • Join up nodes of innovation across the region and help internal and external stakeholders to navigate the landscape through better defined pathways and connectors.
  • Develop a suite of communications tools and assets, tailored to the needs of different audiences, which can be used by all players, to tell Oxfordshire’s innovation story.

“Elsevier has been delighted to partner with Advanced Oxford in support of this work, as it underlines our continued investment in data and analytics supporting insights and decision-making around research and its broader impacts. As a global business with a strong local presence in Oxfordshire, we are also glad to see ourselves reflected in the dashboard as an organisation contributing to the county’s strong position in R&D.” – Andrew Plume, President – International Center for the Study of Research & Vice President – Research Evaluation

“The Oxfordshire Cluster is home to one of the world’s leading universities and a raft of public research institutions at Culham and Harwell, around which a network of world class spin-out companies and investors are growing world class high growth companies. Growing our UK clusters all around the country is a key part of our Innovation Nation mission to highlight the innovation economy to benefit all parts of the country.

“The Innovation Engine 2023 report provides valuable insight into the growth of Oxfordshire’s innovation ecosystem over the last decade. Whilst the report highlights the region’s huge successes, it also helpfully presents some challenges that need to be addressed – from infrastructure to skills and more, which this report provides a roadmap to help the region and Government work to address.

“With great local leadership, growing inward investment, and infrastructure improvements, the Oxfordshire Cluster has a huge future and role as a jewel in the crown of the UK Innovation Economy.” – George Freeman MP, Minister of State at the Department of Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT)

“Oxford is a scientific super-cluster. From our universities, to our science parks, academics to investors; each plays a crucial part in keeping our innovation engine running. And while over the past decade we have seen this super-cluster continue to flourish, our job is not yet done. We cannot rest on our laurels. The Oxfordshire’s Innovation Engine 2023 report and Dashboard are crucial resources in helping us take stock of all we have achieved, but more importantly they must aid Government – at all levels – to ensure Oxford continues to play a leading role in helping the UK achieve its Science Superpower ambitions.” – Nicola Blackwood, Baroness Blackwood of North Oxford, speaking at the launch of Oxfordshire’s Innovation Engine 2023

A united voice for the high-tech and innovation industry, Advanced Oxford is a research-led membership organisation of senior leaders from the major knowledge-intensive businesses in the Oxford region. Members include companies, universities, the NHS through Oxford Academic Health Science Network and providers of innovation infrastructure and support such as The Oxford Trust and Oxford Innovation Advice.

Download the full report or register your interest in supporting the report’s recommendations here


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