Welcome – Nigel Tipple, Chief Executive
On behalf of OxLEP, the Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership, I would like to welcome you to our 2021/2022 annual report: ‘OxLEP – a constant in an ever-changing business landscape’.
It goes without saying, the past year has been another demanding and testing 12 months for every business in Oxfordshire. Whether it was the continued impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, the cost of living crisis or the rise in energy prices impacting business and communities alike, it seems like there’s been a constant stream of challenges for us all to address.
It is therefore imperative for organisations like OxLEP to try and inject positivity into our business community and ‘shout out loud’ about the support that is available to organisations of all shapes and sizes.
Firstly, I have to pay tribute to our team at OxLEP and their unwavering commitment to supporting business. I should also highlight the significant Oxfordshire ‘whole system’ approach which has seen our local authority, health partners and community groups working together to support the county as a whole at its time of need.
As for our team specifically, over the past 18 months alone, we have collectively engaged with over 2,600 Oxfordshire-based businesses (and counting) and provided over 12,000 hours of business support.
There has been significant level of delivery over the past 12 months. We launched and committed £2m-plus of funding via our Business Investment Fund, continued to attract businesses – from multiple sectors, both nationally and internationally – to the county supporting 38 foreign direct investments into the county, as well as helping to ensure business, education and young people maintained strong dialogue, including via our new digital platform ‘Find Your Future’.
I hope that our commitment was evident to you all during what continues to be such tough times for thousands of businesses.
We too have embraced much change.
In early-summer 2021, we formalised our own move to being a digitalised business, with an operational hub also located at Harwell Campus. Like all businesses, we have needed to evaluate our own approach to work and we hope that our new business model has given you strong and effective support that you need at this critical time.
Since our formation just over 10 years ago, we have secured a staggering £1bn-worth of funding for the Oxfordshire economy, in partnership with private and public sector partners. Much of this investment is now showing real impact and legacy across a whole host of communities and business interests in the county.
We have continued to make investment available to support our economy over the past 12 months aligned to our Economic Recovery Plan with projects such as; ‘Meanwhile in Oxfordshire’, the Green Construction Skills Centre, the Activate Hospitality Suite, the Earth Lab and Life Sciences Lab Space at the Wood Centre for Innovation receiving support.
As we head into the latter stages of 2022 and beyond, it remains important for us to work with you – the Oxfordshire business community – to continue to understand both the challenges and opportunities that you face, ensuring that our programmes give you the best opportunity to be productive and indeed, resilient given the continued challenges.
Promoting our innovation ecosystem also remains an important part of our work. Oxfordshire continues to be a place of genuine opportunity and a county of continued, world-leading innovation.
For example, the past year has seen the introduction of an autonomous passenger shuttle trial at Harwell Campus, helping to demonstrate the potential of self-driving vehicles in real life settings – these are new, ground-breaking transformative technologies being born in Oxfordshire and its key that young people and those with the most-entrepreneurial minds recognise just what Oxfordshire has to offer.
Then there is of course the climate emergency, which none of us can ignore.
We were delighted to host an official COP26 event in Oxford: ‘The Billion Tonne Drop’, showcasing how a cleaner, more sustainable future for everyone can be supported through the technologies being generated here in Oxfordshire.
Ensuring that as wide an international audience as possible understand Oxfordshire’s capabilities in fusion, space and satellites, solar technologies and electric vehicle technologies to name but a few is a critical area of our work, but – just as importantly – so is the importance of stimulating our business community to embrace change too and help them to create positive steps to become more sustainable businesses.
This will no doubt be a priority for us, working closely with our whole system partners and a range of key stakeholders who are experts in this field.
Few of these exciting opportunities though would come to fruition within Oxfordshire without the right talent – whether that be attracting new businesses and entrepreneurs to the county, including those from overseas, or laying the foundations and inspiring young people from across Oxfordshire to embrace the opportunity that exists here.
The role of our Skills team, continuing to build meaningful relationships between business and academia, will always be important. Given the pandemic and our exit from European Union, finding and nurturing new talent for our world-leading sectors is as critical as ever.
Our Oxfordshire Apprenticeship Awards are now a major highlight of the county’s business calendar and is serving a tremendous purpose in showcasing the incredible talent and opportunities that do exist in the county. We are soon to commit to a new programme, the £1.7m Social Contract, which encourages businesses in Oxfordshire to utilise their apprenticeship levy and create training programmes either for their own company, or by supporting smaller businesses’ growth by committing to a levy transfer arrangement.
We really encourage as many businesses as possible to engage with us on this exciting new programme, ultimately helping to maintain talent in Oxfordshire.
In the meantime, I wish you all a very successful next 12 months in pursuing your own business goals whatever they may be.