Key leaders from across Oxfordshire have joined together to set out a vision for the future prosperity of the region.
A new 'green paper', launched last night (4 May) at Begbroke Science Park, looks ahead 20 years and asks how the county can build on its status as one of the UK and Europe's leading 'innovation engines'.
The signatories to the document, who comprise leading figures from local government, education, health, science, enterprise and innovation, hope the paper will stimulate discussion about the future of the region, with the aim of creating an Oxfordshire that is even more dynamic and offers an even greater quality of life than at present.
The county is already one of the most significant and best connected centres of research and enterprise in the UK and Europe, each year attracting new businesses, serious investment, and the best and brightest students and researchers from all over the world.
Professor Ian Walmsley, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) at the University of Oxford, said: 'We are very pleased that the key regional leaders have joined to frame a vision for the future of Oxfordshire that brings together their aspirations for economic growth with improved quality of life and how innovation can contribute to achieving this vision. The scenario-planning exercise carried out in advance of publication has produced a green paper that points to great opportunities for the region. Having so many regional leaders as signatories indicates the collaborative partnership that will be required to realise these opportunities.'
Nigel Tipple, Chief Executive of the Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), said: 'Innovation has been at the heart of Oxfordshire’s business success, and we recognise the value innovation plays in developing business growth across sectors from social enterprise and the environment to advanced engineering and life sciences. The Oxfordshire Green Paper sets the context for the development of an Oxfordshire Innovation Strategy which will help to shape our future economic growth.'
A collaborative effort arising from discussions convened by the University of Oxford, the Oxfordshire Green Paper explores the contribution the region makes to the UK as a whole and offers a vision of life in the county in 2035. The document also addresses some of the challenges to this vision that can be addressed by key organisations working together in harmony, as well as outlining how other interested parties can have their say.
The introduction to the paper states: 'Oxfordshire is an "innovation engine", one of the most significant and best connected centres of research and enterprise in the UK and Europe.
'From all over the world, each year, we attract new businesses and enterprises; investment from public and private sources; and the brightest and best students and researchers. We convert the energy that they bring into a constant flow of new products, businesses and scientific breakthroughs.
'We are able to attract and inspire ideas and investment because we have nurtured a dynamic innovation ecosystem within a beautiful and historic environment. It is that combination, of history and modernity, of urban and rural, that makes Oxfordshire such a special place. As US Ambassador Matthew W Barzun put it, following his visit in late 2015, Oxford is "inspired by the past but focused on the future".
'With that focus on the future in mind, where do we envisage this engine will propel us over the next 20 years? How do we nurture an Oxfordshire that is even more dynamic and offers an even greater quality of life?
'In recent months, regional partners have come together in a spirit of cooperation to address these questions. We do not claim to have all the answers or agreement on all points. Nonetheless, it is important that we keep asking the questions and debating the answers.
'To that end, this green paper sets out some thoughts on a shared future with the hope it will spark a wider dialogue about what Oxfordshire may look like.'