Oxford start-up hub aims to help create 4,000 jobs

Research England throws weight behind new innovation project that promises to raise nearly £1 billion in private capital

January 24, 2020

A new University of Oxford business centre is promising to create almost 4,000 UK jobs and raise nearly £1 billion in private finance.

The Oxford Creative Destruction Lab will support hundreds of science-based early-stage businesses, with the initiative focusing initially on artificial intelligence start-ups before expanding into healthy ageing, alternative green energy and quantum technology.

It will receive funding from Research England, part of UK Research and Innovation, which said that the project would support 225 high-potential early-stage companies from all over the UK, with aims to raise £225 million in capital, and generate £900 million in equity value.

Announcing its support for the project on 24 January, Research England said that the start-ups involved will benefit from input from technology, finance and science mentors – including Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and investors.

Chris Skidmore, universities and science minister, said thatthe Research England investment “draws in Silicon Valley expertise and business knowledge to inspire the next generation of UK entrepreneurs to create the technologies of the future”.

“Google was famously founded by two postgraduate students,” said Mr Skidmore, who added that “the UK has world-class researchers who can follow their lead.”

Under the Creative Destruction Lab scheme – which has been successfully run in Canada and the US – early-stage companies are matched with successful entrepreneurs who assign the start-ups objectives that they must achieve within a couple of months – a process that helps them attract private capital.

Previous start-ups involved in the programme in Canada have developed software that automates manual workflows in financial services firms, a brain-imaging platform to quantify and understand brain connectivity, and digital tools to increase employees’ creativity and cognitive performance.

Alice Frost, director of knowledge exchange at Research England, said that the programme will “put our most promising science start-ups from throughout the UK through a rigorous process of development”.

The initiative, which has been led by Oxford’s Saïd Business School, admitted the first cohort in September 2019. These are now 26 early-stage AI companies.

jack.grove@timeshighereducation.com

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