Devolution can boost Oxford’s innovative potential to compete with best European cities

Published: Wednesday, 28th September 2016

The government should devolve funding and powers to cities such as Oxford to allow them to invest in the infrastructure and skills they need to fulfil their potential, a new report has urged.

The report, by the think-tank Centre for Cities, titled ‘Competing with the Continent’, presents an in-depth picture of how UK city economies compare to their European counterparts, covering 330 cities across 17 countries. It names Oxford and Cambridge as the only two UK cities - that are in the European top 20 for innovation. 

The two cities occupy a rare position in  the UK and EU economies as cities that produce high levels of innovation through their highly skilled workforces, universities and the technology clusters associated with them, and which in many cases have been created by spin outs from university research teams. 

However, in terms of productivity, nine out of 10 UK cities – including Oxford - perform below the European average. This demonstrates a need to improve on this key measure, which is acting as a nationwide drag on the UK economy against other competitor countries.

Devolution of Whitehall powers to the local level will allow a city such as Oxford to invest in its unique strengths - innovation, technology and knowledge - while also tackling its greatest local challenges, such as housing, employment sites and infrastructure, which constrain it from attracting more people with higher level skills. 

Councillor Bob Price, Leader of Oxford City Council, said: “It comes as no surprise that the report identifies Oxford as one of Europe’s top cities for innovation. We were shortlisted by the European Commission for the EU City of Innovation 2016 award, and our two universities provide a unique innovation base. The University of Oxford has just been ranked as the world’s best in the Times Higher Education rankings. We’ll continue to work with our fellow councils across Oxfordshire to agree a devolution deal with the government in order to address local constraints and exploit local opportunities to fulfil the productive potential of our city and its surrounding region.”

The report is available to read or download.