Late last year, we celebrated the opening of the Prodrive Powertrain Development Centre, a facility OxLEP supported through £500,000 of Local Growth Fund investment, in order to help an organisation at the forefront of one of the county’s leading sectors solve some of its biggest problems.
In a change from engineering some of the motorsport industry’s world-leading competition cars, composites and areas of advanced technology innovation, the Banbury-based business is one of the Oxfordshire companies leading the charge against the global Coronavirus pandemic.
A company at the heart of Britain’s world-renowned ‘Motorsport Valley’, Prodrive announced earlier this week that they are switching their systems to manufacture ventilators, as UK hospitals struggle with ever-increasing numbers of patients with breathing problems due to the virus.
Prodrive are just one of the Oxfordshire businesses ‘playing their part’ to assist in the efforts to combat the worldwide pandemic and bring it to an end as swiftly as possible, with companies across the county reallocating their resource into areas such as research and development, testing and manufacturing.
As some businesses look to shift their day-to-day function to support efforts against the virus entirely, others are looking at how they can make a difference through the utilisation of their current research, products and capabilities.
This is of particular significance in a county with global potential in several ‘transformative technologies’, the number one university in the world-enabling academic excellence (Times Higher Education rankings) and leading R&D stemming out of key science and innovation campuses.
One of the county’s ‘unicorn’ businesses (valued at over $1billion), DNA sequencing specialists Oxford Nanopore, are currently working with laboratories across the world to rapidly sequence the virus and help public health authorities globally to understand the identity of the structure, whether it is changing and how it is being transmitted.
The business’ technology has been used to rapidly share data and sequence the virus in just seven hours.
Whilst it will be very tough for the county’s exceptional small business community to remain resilient in the coming weeks (the county’s business survival rate is well above the national average), SMEs, social enterprises and charities from across Oxfordshire are not only rising to the challenging and uncertain times they face, but also supporting efforts where they can.
‘Oxford Together’ is an initiative being implemented by Oxford’s centre for social action, the Oxford Hub, encouraging healthy individuals to sign-up to become ‘community champions’, with the allocation of various tasks to support the most vulnerable amongst us at this turbulent time.
At a time where businesses of all sizes face uncertain prospects, the shift in efforts to help the UK during this crisis shows a county with immense research and development capabilities, right through to enormously-agile social enterprises delivering support to the county’s many different communities.
Here at OxLEP, we’re determined to continue doing everything we can to support Oxfordshire’s businesses as the Coronavirus pandemic continues, relaying information between our business community and government and signposting support where it becomes available.