Baroness Nicola Blackwood, Chair of Genomics England and former Minister for Innovation in the Department of Health and Social Care, has been announced as the new Chair of Oxford University Innovation (OUI), the research commercialisation arm of Oxford University.
Baroness Blackwood joins OUI at a time of record growth for the Oxford innovation cluster. In the past year, Oxford University, through OUI, has spun out 31 new companies, more than any UK or US university in the same period. Overall, it has created more than 270 companies since 1958, half of which have been formed since 2016. These companies include technology firms in areas such as artificial intelligence, digital health, vaccines, and quantum computers, as well as social ventures tackling poverty and technologies for fighting COVID-19. Oxford University companies are also attracting investment at record levels, with £4.4 billion invested since 2011, more than £1 billion of which has been in the last fiscal year.
In Government, Nicola held a number of roles linked to innovation and entrepreneurship. In 2015, she became Chair of the Science and Technology Select Committee, where she led inquiries into the science budget, space and satellites, and how UK science would be impacted by the EU referendum. In 2016, she assumed the role of Under-Secretary of State for Public Health & Innovation where she held a portfolio that covered life sciences, mental health, global health security, and public health.
She left office in 2017 and became Chair of the Human Tissue Authority. She also took on a number of board and advisory roles for technology companies, and joined the Board of Oxford University Innovation. She returned to Government in 2019 as a life peer, where she became the Under-Secretary of State for Innovation in the Department of Health and Social Care, responsible for life sciences, digital transformation and data, rare diseases, vaccines, global health security and trade.
Baroness Blackwood,said: “Both the COVID vaccine and Oxford Nanopore’s recent blockbuster IPO underline the critical importance of Oxford University’s research and innovation in bolstering the UK’s economy and tackling some of the greatest global challenges facing us today. As the interface between academic discovery and the industrial, investor and entrepreneurial communities, OUI has a crucial role to play in unlocking the full commercial potential of university research. As Chair, I look forward to overseeing the smooth transition of Oxford ideas into tangible technologies and companies that deliver sustainable economic growth and far-reaching impact.”
Professor Louise Richardson, Vice Chancellor of Oxford University, added: “Nicola Blackwood has long been a powerful advocate for British science, technology and innovation. I am delighted that she has agreed to Chair Oxford University Innovation. My colleagues and I look forward to working with her to ensure that our academics are supported in translating their ideas into public benefit.”
Professor Chas Bountra, Pro Vice Chancellor for Innovation, said: “We are delighted that Baroness Blackwood has been appointed Chair of Oxford University Innovation. OUI plays a crucial role in transforming the University’s pioneering research into impactful solutions to global challenges. Baroness Blackwood’s extensive knowledge and experience can only strengthen Oxford’s position as a world leader in innovation.”