The Chancellor of the Exchequer announced in this week’s autumn statement that Oxfordshire will be one of eight regions to carry out an science and innovation audit (SIA).
Designed to map out local research, innovation and infrastructure strengths across the UK, the SIAs will identify and build on the potential of every region across the country by making sure investment is properly targeted and uncovering opportunities for businesses to tap into.
The Oxfordshire SIA will be led by the University of Oxford, Oxford Brookes University, the Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (OxLEP), the Oxford Academic Health Sciences Network, UKAEA, and the Satellite Applications Catapult. However, the group of partners and collaborators that will gather to conduct the audit will be much larger and will include representatives from industry, local government and academia.
The SIA will focus on four key areas for Oxfordshire: autonomous vehicles, space-led data applications, digital health, and technologies underpinning quantum computing.
UKAEA’s robotics centre RACE (Remote Applications in Challenging Environments) will lead the autonomous vehicles strand. As well as the possibility of autonomous vehicle trials at UKAEA’s Culham site, the audit will explore other opportunities to test autonomous vehicle services in Oxfordshire. Developing passenger-carrying services in Oxford, Didcot and initially at RACE could provide a strategic opportunity for the UK to develop a leading position in driverless vehicles.
Dr Rob Buckingham, Director of RACE, said:
We have world class science and technology in Oxfordshire. By working together we can convert this into solutions that will both start to address our local issues including traffic congestion as well as attracting inward investment and creating the conditions for new robotics companies to flourish.
Oxfordshire’s focus on robotics is timely as Prime Minister Theresa May named robotics as a priority R&D area in her recent speech to the Confederation of British Industry.
Professor Ian Walmsley, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) at the University of Oxford, said:
Oxfordshire has strength and depth across many different areas of science and innovation, and we have selected a small number of these to focus on for our audit.
We have chosen four areas of focus that we believe are important for future UK competitiveness, where Oxfordshire has strengths, and where we would like to have greater understanding of local and national networks to help underpin future industry supply chains.
We look forward to working with government to develop this greater understanding of our strengths in these areas, which will allow us to make sure that businesses and universities in Oxfordshire and across the UK continue to be internationally leading.