Business leaders from across Oxfordshire and beyond yesterday (25 November) gathered ‘digitally’ to look back on a challenging economic year across the globe, but also emphasise the strong innovation-led ambition that exists within the county, with the capability of leading the UK’s pandemic recovery.
The Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership’s (OxLEP) annual event, which was hosted by broadcaster Howard Bentham, saw the organisation reflect on an unprecedented 12 months – not just for Oxfordshire, national and global economies, following the outbreak of COVID-19 – but also, the role it has played, supporting hundreds of businesses from across the county in-light of pandemic.
OxLEP chair Jeremy Long and chief executive Nigel Tipple updated key stakeholders on the organisation’s activities, as well as its commitment and determination to ensure the county’s businesses can run as efficiently as possible and remain productive during this unprecedented economic period.
WATCH AGAIN: The OxLEP Annual Event 2020
Ahmed Goga – OxLEP’s Director of Strategy – also reflected on September’s launch of the £4.3bn Oxfordshire Investment Plan, which called upon the UK Government and international investors to back a portfolio of programmes and projects created – not only to support the economic recovery from Coronavirus – but also trigger significant job openings and commercial activity, accelerating opportunities in the county and the rest of the UK.
Key business leaders from some of the county’s globally-significant sectors also joined the event to emphasise why being located in Oxfordshire brings significant advantages to their organisation, aligning with the ambition of the Oxfordshire Local Industrial Strategy to become a top-three global innovation ecosystem by 2040.
Rafel Jorda Siquier, Founder and CEO of the Harwell Campus-based Open Cosmos – a company that aims to deliver satellite-based solutions, designed to tackle Earth’s biggest challenges – and Dr Chris Case, Chief Technology Officer at Oxford PV – a University of Oxford spin out and leader in the field of perovskite solar cells, were on-hand to reflect the importance of being part of a world-leading network of innovative businesses.
Rafel also highlighted the importance of the Harwell International Space Cluster as a gateway to the UK space sector, as its infrastructure is vital in driving innovation and attracting new investment.
In particular, the company has also announced that it has invested £4 million in Research and Development over the last five years with the aim of opening up space to all types of businesses, industries and even end users, with the aim of maximising its usefulness and turning the information extracted from satellites into practical knowledge useful for making accurate decisions on Earth.
The event – which was live-streamed – so reflected on the continued need to set ‘clear pathways’ for young people, helping them to develop the skills needed to secure employment opportunities within Oxfordshire’s key sectors. It also reflected on the need for businesses to embrace innovation in low-carbon technologies too, helping to position Oxfordshire as a genuine leader in clean growth.
Nigel Tipple said: “Coronavirus has created an unprecedented situation and will cause concern and disruption to businesses of all sizes for the foreseeable future.
“However, we are home to some of the world’s most innovative companies, respected academics, passionate entrepreneurs and nurturing business organisations. Our goal continues to be to accelerate the county’s economic recovery for the benefit of both our residents, businesses and the wider UK economy.
“We will continue to work hard to ensure that our business community can be supported – and remain resilient – during this challenging period.”
The event also reflected on the vital role of OxLEP, securing funding for the county. Since its inception in 2011, OxLEP – with its partners – has secured almost £660m-worth of government and European funding for Oxfordshire, which has seen more than 48,000 new jobs created in the county between 2011 and 2018.
Nigel added: “We continue to play a vitally important role for the county moving forward, securing investment that enables new opportunities that benefit our community for many years to come.”