The Oxford Trust, the local charity encouraging the pursuit of science and enterprise, is to commence the second phase of its conversion of dedicated high spec lab facilities at its Wood Centre for Innovation in Headington, Oxford, following £0.2 million additional Local Growth Fund support, secured by the Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (OxLEP).
With the first 5,500 sq ft phase of the R&D lab development at the Wood Centre for Innovation completed in May this year, the second phase will deliver an additional 3,000 sq ft of laboratory and allied space of close to 9,000 sq ft.
The £0.9 million total investment by the Trust, of which £0.3 million has been government funded, is in answer to the unprecedented demand over the last year from science and tech start-ups for lab space in Oxford. This is particularly acute in the science and technology cluster, centred in Headington, which is now globally recognised for delivering lifesaving developments such as the COVID-19 vaccine and other innovative technologies.
The phase II conversion will provide advanced R&D laboratory space and ancillary areas for work at up to containment level 2 with climate control and air handling.
Future occupiers will have access to 500 sq ft of shared facilities for common equipment and specialist microscopy use, including liquid nitrogen storage, autoclave, ultra-pure water, darkroom and an on-site lab technician. Some bespoke fit-out options will be available for early clients. The project is due for completion in early 2022.
The funding is expected to further boost employment at the innovation centre as providing further economic growth for the city and the local Headington community.
Opened by the High Sheriff of Oxfordshire in early July, the initial £0.5 million first phase of the R&D laboratory conversion at the Wood Centre for Innovation, also supported by the Government’s Local Growth Fund, has been completed and is fully assigned to clients.
Steve Burgess, chief executive officer of The Oxford Trust said: “It is thanks to OxLEP for securing a second tranche of national government funding – alongside the Trust’s significant own investment – that we have been able to accelerate lab provision at our Wood Centre for Innovation that will give early-stage companies the opportunities they need to achieve their potential. It is a real endorsement of what we do to have the first and second phases of our lab development supported by the Local Growth Fund.
“We can now offer a complete range of spaces in our two innovation centres from virtual offices and co-working to grade A office space and class II life science laboratory facilities to support science and tech start-ups focused on R&D, such as DJS Antibodies and Samsara Therapeutics, on their journey to success.”
The Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (or OxLEP) is one of 38 Local Enterprise Partnerships in England which plays a key role in driving forward economic growth and – by 2021 – it’s expected that the central Government will have invested over £12 billion into the UK economy via the Local Growth Fund.
The Fund allows LEPs to use their local knowledge to promote growth in their individual regions. Analysis has shown that for every £1 of Local Growth Fund invested, £4.81 in benefits could be generated.
Since its launch in 2011, OxLEP has secured around £660m-worth of central government and European funds for the Oxfordshire economy, supporting the creation of around 65,000 new jobs between 2011 and 2019 – representing over two-thirds of a 2031 target of 85,600 new jobs. In total – OxLEP oversees a £2.2bn growth programme for Oxfordshire.
Nigel Tipple, chief executive of OxLEP, said: “The confirmation of further funding for such a significant project – which highlights the growing demand for such space for Oxfordshire’s world-class life sciences sector – is excellent news.
“Over the past year, Oxfordshire’s life sciences sector has demonstrated its global standing – particularly due to its monumental response to the COVID-19 pandemic. We hope that the further Local Growth Fund investment secured for this project will help the sector continue to build from its position of major strength.
“As the Local Enterprise Partnership for Oxfordshire, we will continue to play a vitally important role for the county moving forward, securing investment across significant sectors and championing new opportunities that benefit the county’s businesses and communities.”
After the successful development of phase I, Bulb Laboratories has been contracted to oversee the development of the phase II laboratory space at the Wood Centre for Innovation. Based in Reading and specialists in laboratory conversion, Bulb is to provide expert consultancy services, including design and project management.
The Trust’s innovation centres – the Wood Centre for Innovation and the Oxford Centre for Innovation in the city centre – are managed by Oxford Innovation, a spin-out from The Oxford Trust and the UK’s leading operator of innovation centres.