Pictured above: Close to the junction between Cornmarket Street and George Street in Oxford.
The Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (OxLEP) has this week announced a new Government-funded project to address a shortage of workspace for the county’s business community in Oxford, whilst – in turn – creating vital space for the county’s entrepreneurs.
The multi-million-pound Local Growth Fund project, dubbed the Entrepreneurship Hubs, will see substantial space across premises on the city’s George Street and Cave Street, refurbished and redeveloped.
The new 16,800 sq. ft. workspace will meet the needs of digital, creative and social enterprises, assist 25 new learners in courses leading to full-time qualifications and support 162 jobs and 36 businesses by 2025.
Oxford City Council, who will be delivering the project, aim to provide a proportion of the workspaces at affordable rents to support new businesses. Businesses will be encouraged to promote the inclusive economy – for example by providing work placements, apprenticeships, and paying the Oxford Living Wage.
This will allow a diverse range of businesses to start and grow in Oxford, providing a pipeline for innovation-led growth for the city.
Construction work for the refurbishment of 1-3 George Street has already commenced and work at Standingford House on Cave Street is expected to start later in the year following an options assessment and approval of the detailed business case.
The project also aligns with Oxfordshire’s world-leading innovation ecosystem which – across multiple sectors – supports entrepreneurship, investment and innovation to thrive.
The county is home to dynamic and creative industries including companies that focus on computer gaming, software development, cybersecurity and high performance computing, as well as film and TV.
Around 3,000 digital and creative businesses are based in Oxfordshire, generating £1.4bn to the UK economy each year, pre-COVID 19.
OxLEP is one of 38 Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) in England playing a key role in driving forward economic growth and – by 2021 – it’s expected that central Government will have invested over £12bn into the UK economy via the Local Growth Fund.
The Local Growth Fund investment aims to allow LEPs to use their local knowledge to promote growth in their individual regions.
Analysis has shown that for every £1 of Local Growth Fund invested, £4.81 in benefits could be generated.
OxLEP secured £1.93 million of funding for the project via the government’s Local Growth Fund – the overall cost of the project is £6.18m, with the City Council due to fund the expected remaining costs of around £4.25m.
Since its inception in 2011, OxLEP – with its partners – has secured around £660m-worth of government funding for Oxfordshire, which has seen more than 48,000 new jobs created in the county between 2012 and 2018.
In total, OxLEP currently oversees a £2.2bn growth programme for the county.
Nigel Tipple – OxLEP Chief Executive – said: “The announcement of such a significant project – that will have a positive impact on our business community – is excellent news, particularly in a post COVID-19 economy.
“As the Local Enterprise Partnership for Oxfordshire, we will continue to play a vitally important role for the county moving forward, securing investment that enables new opportunities that benefit the county’s businesses for many years to come.
“Oxfordshire has significant ambitions, including the aim of becoming a top-three global innovation ecosystem by 2040 via the county’s Local Industrial Strategy and this Local Growth Fund project will support these aspirations.”
Luke Hall MP – Minister for Regional Growth and Local Government – said: “This government is committed to supporting and encouraging entrepreneurs by shaping an environment where they can grow and thrive.
“That is why we have invested £1.93m, through the Local Growth Fund, in this project to develop City Centre Entrepreneurship Hubs in Oxford.
“The hubs will allow a diverse range of businesses to emerge and grow, bringing jobs and prosperity to the region.”
Councillor Susan Brown, Leader of Oxford City Council, said: “Oxford is regularly named as having one of the leading economies of any city in the UK and, because of our large number of high-tech businesses, as one of the cities that will be best able to mitigate the impact of future automation and weather the dual economic storms of Brexit and the COVID-19 pandemic. But we cannot and will not rest on our laurels.
“In order to create secure jobs for the future, and provide roles for those who have been impacted by the economic effects of COVID, we need a pipeline of entrepreneurs creating new and innovative businesses in Oxford, across a range of sectors. For some time we have had a chronic under supply of workspace for start-ups – until now.
“We’re delighted that OxLEP and Government funding have allowed us to support this project, and we hope the businesses that join us will one day grow to become the new worldwide leaders of new and innovative industries that are based right here in Oxford.”