A new shuttle bus service linking the University of Oxford's science area with Harwell Science and Innovation Campus and the Old Road Campus is to begin in July.
The service will provide an important boost to the connectivity of the region's science and innovation landscape, allowing research staff, students and visitors to move quickly and conveniently between the three sites.
The University of Oxford has commissioned University Bus Ltd (UNO) to operate the 'Science Transit Shuttle', which will start operating on 18 July and will provide a weekday minibus connection every 30 minutes between 7am and 7pm.
The service is being funded for one year initially by the University of Oxford and the Science & Technology Facilities Council (STFC).
Professor Ian Walmsley, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) at the University of Oxford, said: 'The University of Oxford is internationally recognised for the range and excellence of its research, and the calibre of its academic researchers. Our cutting-edge research in physical and life sciences requires access to state-of-the-art facilities and collaborations with centres of expertise.
'The new transport connection provided by the Science Transit Shuttle will, by providing a fast and frequent connection between the campuses, support the growth of interactions between the University and organisations at Harwell. This, in turn, will improve the ability for commercial connections and innovation opportunities to flourish from these innovation centres.'
Professor John Womersley, CEO of STFC, which co-manages Harwell Campus, said: 'Oxfordshire is internationally recognised for the range and excellence of its research and innovation. The two main sites in the county for this are the Harwell Campus and the activities of the universities in and around the city of Oxford.
'Through better connecting these two locations we have a unique opportunity for networks of interdisciplinary research and innovation to align and develop, building groups with shared interests and access to complementary techniques, facilities and skills.'
The University's transport strategy has identified the need to improve connectivity by sustainable travel across its estate, helping reduce local traffic congestion and carbon emissions, and improve air quality. This improved connectivity will aid the University in achieving its objectives for learning, knowledge creation and the sharing of benefits with wider society.
By providing fast and direct door-to-door connections for business journeys between the three sites (not currently available via public transport), the new shuttle service will also help spur interaction, investment and commercial innovation between the academic and business communities and unlock economic growth on the 'Oxfordshire knowledge spine'.
Starting in the science area at South Parks Road, journey times for the Science Transit Shuttle are expected to be around 50-60 minutes to Harwell Campus and 15-25 minutes to ORC.
The service will initially be open only to University staff and students and staff at Harwell Campus. However, the long-term intention is to explore options for more flexible routing and to open the service to the public. Funding is currently being sought from the Government's Local Growth Fund to develop a public transport service using zero-emissions buses. There will be a fee to use the service, which will help cover the running costs, and the exact amount will be confirmed before the service start date.
UNO is a wholly owned subsidiary of the University of Hertfordshire with considerable experience of operating bus services for the higher education sector and Transport for London.
James Thorpe, Managing Director of UNO, said: 'As a subsidiary company of the University of Hertfordshire, UNO is committed to providing smart travel solutions for the higher education sector and improving the overall transport network. The Science Transit Shuttle represents another example of our company working in partnership, and we are very pleased to be working with the University of Oxford alongside our other ventures in Hatfield, Northampton and Cranfield. We are looking forward to starting the service on 18 July and working together to improve the city's transport links.'
The science area in central Oxford is home to many of the University's scientific departments, while the Old Road Campus (ORC) in Headington is a major academic centre and business hub for the commercialisation of academic research. ORC is in close proximity to the Churchill, Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre and Warneford hospitals, where the University has a significant research and clinical teaching presence and 2,200 staff. Many movements are made daily between the science area and ORC.
Harwell Campus, meanwhile, hosts cutting-edge scientific equipment such as Europe's largest synchrotron and is home to a large science-based business community, including the UK's space industry. It is crucial for the University's academic community to have access to the facilities at Harwell and build partnerships with the business community to enable research to be put to practical use.