The Oxford Trust, the charity encouraging the pursuit of science and enterprise, has welcomed five new occupiers during lockdown across its two Oxford innovation centres: The Oxford Centre for Innovation next to Oxford Castle and The Wood Centre for Innovation in Headington’s Global Health & Life Sciences District. In addition, two current occupiers have taken expansion space, bringing the total new space taken during lockdown to 4,000 sq ft.
The five new businesses are: Spintex, founded in 2018 as a spinout from the University of Oxford by three co-founders, artificially spins high performance silk fibres produced through a spider-inspired process which uses no hazardous chemicals, with water as its only by-product, to provide a solution to sustainable and technical textiles. Spintex has taken technical R&D laboratory workspace at The Wood Centre for Innovation as part of its next growth phase, which is to fine-tune its engineering process, raise additional funding, and further reduce manufacturing costs to commercial levels ahead of scale-up.
Alex Greenhalgh, founder, Spintex said: “We chose The Wood Centre because as our business develops, we needed immediate expansion space, as well as to benefit from the expert business support that comes with the space through its innovation director who is always on hand to aid us. It’s great to be part of a community which is made up of so many different companies while being located in Oxford and surrounded by lovely woodland!”
Akrivia Health, the specialists in mental health patient data, has taken office space in the recently refurbished basement rooms at The Oxford Centre for Innovation.
Living Optics, which was spun out from the University of Oxford’s Physics Department to commercialise the next generation of imaging technology, has also taken flexible office space at The Oxford Centre for Innovation.
In addition, PrintPool Additive Manufacturing, which offers subscription based 3D printing services for small engineering, architecture and product design teams, is to move to a technical workspace at The Wood Centre for Innovation.
SSEN (Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks), which is working on a £40m Innovate UK-funded scheme called Project LEO ‘Local Energy Oxfordshire’ alongside another Wood Centre for Innovation occupier, the Low Carbon Hub, has taken space in the same centre. Their vision is to transform the way energy is delivered by creating a more responsive and flexible electricity grid through local households, businesses and communities.
Melanie Brice, Oxfordshire programme director, SSEN said: “The Wood Centre for Innovation matches our needs perfectly, with the low energy, sustainably sourced building design, the installed EV chargers and integration of the on-site STEM learning for primary school children. The space itself has an ideal mix of meeting rooms, office space, conference rooms and outdoor areas which give lots of options for collaboration with our partners, especially co-residents the Low Carbon Hub.”
The two companies which have taken additional expansion space at The Oxford Centre for Innovation are ColdQuanta UK and Visual Meaning. ColdQuanta UK is working on quantum technologies, including a £4 million Innovate UK grant-funded project and has doubled its space. Visual Meaning, which provides a combination of visual and systems thinking techniques to support organisational transformation, has also significantly expanded its space.
In July and August, The Oxford Trust saw unprecedented enquiries for innovation space with an increase of 210 per cent from 10 to 31 enquiries for the Oxford Centre for Innovation and 767 per cent from six to 52 enquiries for the Wood Centre for Innovation.
Steve Burgess, chief executive officer, The Oxford Trust said: “We warmly welcome our newest businesses to our thriving innovation community in our two centres. They all have exciting stories to tell, with many working on leading edge start-up ideas, and are joining a like-minded business community of go-ahead science and tech businesses. We wish them continued success on their innovation journey.
“We continue to respond to the high demand from people and companies who need office, technical workspace and R&D lab space along with complementary business support in the innovation hotbed that is Oxford, often through our licence model, which is an attractive option for start-ups as well as for some grow-on companies and SMEs. We have seen strong demand for our space, and while our city innovation centre is again now nearing full occupancy, our Wood Centre for Innovation, which opened in 2019 is seeing many enquiries from science and technology companies needing work and lab space under more flexible a COVID-19 sensitive conditions alongside looking for a beautiful and sustainable environment in which to work. In addition, the new Barclays Eagle Lab accelerator is due to welcome its first occupants very soon, helping the Trust complete its client’s growth pathway.
“As we support our occupiers on their journey, in turn, the income we generate helps the regions innovation ecosystem and our Science Oxford arm, also based at our Wood Centre for Innovation, to provide valuable science education and engagement programmes across Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire. Indeed, we are extra proud that Alex from Spintex won a Nuffield Foundation Bursary in microbiology through Science Oxford which we ran from 1998 to 2014.”
Both centres are managed by Oxford Innovation, a spin-out from The Oxford Trust, which today runs 26 innovation centres across the UK.
Tim Smith, deputy managing director, Oxford Innovation added: “We have sustained our UK operation throughout the COVID-crisis and, though it’s far from over, we’re encouraged to see market demand continuing for space to innovate in such challenging circumstances. A key element of this demand is undoubtedly responding to the flexibility we offer, which remains true to the priorities of our founders and The Oxford Trust. Demand is as much about quality and we’re excited to welcome and of course retain innovators from such diverse sectors.”
Bidwells is acting on behalf of The Oxford Trust to lease office, technical and R&D lab workspace in the The Wood Centre for Innovation.
David Williams, partner, business space agency & head of science & technology, Bidwells added: “Despite the extraordinary period in recent months, Oxford’s office and laboratory market has shown remarkable resilience. New occupier news, such as The Oxford Trust’s, underpins not just the City’s innovation ecosystem but also the centres, their space and communities. Oxford continues to see high demand from businesses looking for such space, amazingly showing take-up during the first half of 2020 tracking 2019 and marginally below the 10-year average. The Wood Centre for Innovation, as a stunning and top environmentally friendly building with the added advantage of being close to Headington’s hospitals and research centres, is seeing strong occupier activity.”