To consider Advanced Oxford’s report Powering Up for the Green Recovery, which will be presented to the Growth Board.
The Panel considered a report to the Growth Board from Advanced Oxford, titled ‘Powering Up the Green Recovery – Oxfordshire’s role in building a cleaner future’ and a summary presentation as set out in the Agenda. Sarah Haywood, Managing Director Advanced Oxford and Ahmed Goga, Director of Strategy and Programmes, OxLEP introduced the report and highlighted that:
· Advanced Oxford was a non-profit membership group for companies and organisations from a range of sectors with an innovation and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics focus, (STEM). It undertook research and leadership activity around issues of importance in order to support the development of the Oxfordshire ecosystem and to provide insight from the innovation business community to policy and decision making.
· A focus behind the development of the report was to highlight the high quality science and technology practice that underpinned innovative companies across Oxfordshire contributing to the green recovery and to highlight opportunities and barriers to green growth.
· The report had identified many positives within Oxfordshire including a supportive policy environment and a strong university base, but also opportunities and challenges within the NHS linked post Covid-19 including more innovation around sustainability in the NHS supply chain.
· A series of case studies had been published to supplement the report and provide examples of companies contributing to green economy and recovery.
· Companies that had taken part in the study had identified investment including investment in green skills as both an enabler and potential barrier to future green growth.
· Recommendations of the report included greater investment from government, increased growth funding, higher number of investments, investment in skills including apprenticeships, business development and the need for more innovation spaces including in City Centre locations.
· In considering issues around clean growth it was important to recognise the dynamism of the green innovation ecosystem within Oxfordshire which included world leading companies that had invested in the county with a worth of around £1.3bn
The Panel welcomed the report.
In discussion, it was noted that report had identified a need for more innovation and lab space within the City of Oxford. Notwithstanding the reasons for this, the Panel expressed some concern that an increase in such space would lead to increases in commuting, particularly by car from the surrounding districts as Oxford itself was unable to accommodate sufficient new homes. Affordability of housing within the City was also a factor. It was felt that care needed to be taken to mitigate this as part of the Growth Board’s future work and strategies which should include a focus towards the promotion of the full range of sustainable transport options for employment centres.
Links between firms in the innovative sector and the universities in Oxford were noted and it was also acknowledged that it was not intended to overheat Oxford as an employment centre. However, the Panel felt it was important to avoid becoming Oxford centric and that other parts of the county could offer the same quality of innovation and lab space if good sustainable transport and connectivity could be provided, such as in Bicester and Banbury.
RESOLVED: To recommend to the Growth Board that in its consideration of Advanced Oxford’s report on Powering Up for the Green Recovery, it considers the Scrutiny Panel’s feedback set out below. The Board is encouraged to reflect how these views can inform key future plans and strategies:
1) Future Growth Board work and strategies should consider how any increase in total office space can remain compatible with the long-term carbon reduction ambitions of the Oxfordshire Strategic Vision, and the wider need to design any future Oxford city employment spaces to be car-free and include facilities for sustainable travel
2) There needs to be a balance of focus on areas outside Oxford City along the knowledge spine within the Oxford- Cambridge Arc to promote the creation and development of employment space in areas with good rail links to Oxford such as Bicester and Banbury.
3) There needs to be a focus on sustainable means of transport such as cycle lanes and routes, light passenger railways and autonomous vehicles when designing new spin-out and high-tech spaces. In addition revisiting recommendation 3 made on 16th March 2021 that the Growth Board undertake further work to understand the impact that changes in local rail services do and may have on modal shift with regards to personal car use, consideration should be given to the building of new trains stations on existing lines in areas such as Kidlington- Begbroke-Yarnton.
4) In placemaking, consider designing communities, employment spaces, housing, and transport options holistically, especially in light of changes to working practices in a post-pandemic world and how it is likely to reduce levels of commuting in the long term.