The Oxfordshire Growth Board has today (27 November) welcomed the launch of the Government’s Industrial Strategy, saying that it ‘harnessed’ the county’s ability to lead the UK’s global potential.
The Growth Board – comprising of the county’s six councils – Cherwell District Council, Oxford City Council, Oxfordshire County Council, South Oxfordshire District Council, Vale of White Horse District Council and West Oxfordshire District Council, together with the Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (OxLEP) and the two Universities, said that the strategy ‘further recognised’ Oxfordshire’s position as a key economic driver behind ‘UK PLC’.
Today’s announcement by the Business Secretary Greg Clark includes confirmation that the Government would press ahead with the creation of ‘sector deals’ – which would see areas benefit from strategic, long-term partnerships with central Government.
This includes ‘deals’ with the construction sector, as well as the life sciences, automotive and artificial intelligence sectors – areas where Oxfordshire already boasts an impressive portfolio of pioneering companies making a global impact.
The strategy also focussed on five ‘Foundations of Productivity’ – namely; ‘Ideas’, ‘People’, ‘Infrastructure’, ‘Business Environment’ and ‘Place’, with each foundation supported by a ‘clear and complementary vision’.
Last week – under the proposed Oxfordshire Housing and Growth Agreement – the Government reaffirmed its commitment to working with OxLEP to develop a Local Industrial Strategy to back the county’s world-class science and innovation assets as well as identifying and growing sectors at the heart of UK policy.
The Industrial Strategy has been launched following last week’s Budget announcement which saw Chancellor Philip Hammond commit £215million-worth of investment – over the next five years – to boost infrastructure and productivity in Oxfordshire and support the delivery of 100,000 new homes across the county by 2031.
The Chancellor also said the Government would review recommendations made by the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC), following its report detailing opportunities across the ‘Oxford-Cambridge Corridor’.
In recent months – Oxfordshire has continued to reaffirm a world-leading economic position with several reports from global organisations citing both Oxfordshire and Oxford’s economic strengths.
Issued in October, PwC’s ‘Good Growth for Cities’ report cited Oxford as being one of the two highest-performing cities – in relation to growth – anywhere in the UK. This followed a study by Irwin Mitchell – alongside the Centre for Economics and Business Research – that revealed Oxford currently has the second fastest-growing economy of any UK city.
In addition – Bidwells recently announced that Oxfordshire had recorded its highest half-year figure for business space demand since 2013, whilst Nesta’s ‘State of Small Business’ report announced Oxford as one of just two non-London Boroughs in its top-10 UK cities list for inward venture capital investment.
Nigel Tipple, Chief Executive for OxLEP, said: “It is clear that – as a region – Oxfordshire presents many global opportunities and strengths; a theme that has certainly been harnessed by the Chancellor’s Budget announcements.
“The Industrial Strategy gives further recognition of our global potential and has highlighted the opportunities – across a number of key areas – where we can drive forward sustainable growth and take a lead in boosting the UK’s productivity.”
In last week’s Budget – the Chancellor also announced £500million-worth of investment committed to developing 5G mobile networks, artificial intelligence and full-fibre broadband capabilities, as well as pledging driverless vehicles will be on UK roads by 2021.
Oxfordshire is a global leader in autonomous vehicle development through the DRIVEN programme, with Culham Science Centre home to RACE (Remote Applications in Challenging Environments) who – earlier this year – secured a £51million central government investment to upgrade the UK’s autonomous vehicle testing infrastructure.
It is believed the global autonomous vehicles market could be worth £907billion by 2035.
The county’s Science Innovation Audit – released in September – also revealed Oxfordshire could play a major role in driving forward the UK economy through four transformative technologies.
As well as autonomous vehicles, the Audit cited digital health, space-led data applications and technologies underpinning quantum computing as potential transformative technologies.
The Audit states that – if fully-utilised – the technologies could be worth in the region of £180billion to the UK by 2030, around six per cent of the four technologies’ overall global economy.
Councillor Bob Price, Chair of the Oxfordshire Growth Board and Leader of Oxford City Council, said: “The Government’s Industrial Strategy plays directly to the strengths we have here in Oxfordshire, where our universities and our businesses are at the cutting edge of innovation in life sciences, artificial intelligence, quantum technologies, driverless vehicles and digital health systems..
“It will help us build on the analysis and priorities set out in the existing Oxfordshire Strategic Economic Plan, including the urgent need to upgrade our transport and broadband infrastructure and increase the supply of highly trained workers.
“Our universities are the generator of many of the successful modern businesses across the county and it is important that the Industrial Strategy doesn’t just support the development of applied technologies, but also continues to fund the facilities required for basic l research in the universities and at the Harwell and Culham research parks”