OBN uses its sector-wide contacts to conduct bespoke consultations relating to assets, capabilities or sentiment. OBN’s growing membership is drawn from all facets of Life Sciences including academic research, target identification, drug discovery, contract research, marketing and associated services such as legal, regulatory and finance. Collectively, they present a resource, both for each other and as consultants for sector development. As an example, OBN Members have contributed to a University of Oxford 2014 initiative examining the University’s aspirations, activities and future strategy in relation to knowledge exchange and its contribution to the innovation eco-system.
Sector representation in cluster development
OBN has close contacts with key movers within the Oxford and Thames Valley life sciences ecosystem including Oxford LEP, Oxford AHSN and AHSC, Oxford University Medical Sciences Division, Oxford Brookes University, Structural Genomics Consortium (SGC), Oxford University Hospitals (OUH) NHS Trust, Invest in Oxford, Oxford City Council, Science Park owners and operators and others. We have contributed to initiatives such as the BioEscalator, Milton Science Centre, Harwell Open Innovation Hub and the Didcot UTC and are active on issues concerning property and labspace provision and in attracting companies to the area.
Council of European Bioregions
OBN is one of 44 European bioclusters who are members of the Council of European Bioregions. Members contribute to: cluster strategy; raising the clusters’ profiles; internationalising activities; providing business support to cluster SME’s; and networking with other clusters. OBN is currently participating in two initiatives: collection of data for a Global Cluster Biomarker Programme; and acting as a hub to help member clusters locate potential partners for EU Horizon 2020 consortia bids.
Novel ideas for sector growth - OBN 2020 Vision Group
Funded by its Supporter Members and in consultation with some of its c.380 Member companies, in April 2013 OBN established the OBN 2020 Vision Group, a powerful “thought and action” leadership group. The Group comprises 15 senior industry professionals and is tasked with generating innovative solutions to overcome the core restrictions identified as preventing the most effective translation of science from bench to bedside. The first output from the OBN 2020 Vision Group is the BioTranSet concept, a new template for the supply of first-in-man clinical trials services in exchange for equity. A consultation exercise between a Research Hospital and OBN Members will take place during 2014.
HealthTIES was an EU FP7 project concerned with understanding and stimulating the Healthcare Innovation Cycle through a better understanding of the Triple Helix – Academia, Industry and Government (and the NHS). OBN was part of the Oxford node that also included Oxford University and Oxford Gene Technology and was one of five consortium members that also included nodes in the Netherlands, UK, Spain, Switzerland and Hungary. The initial output of the project was a new tool to assess the functionality of the innovation cycle amongst consortium members and revealed a need for bioincubator space in Oxford and Thames Valley. OBN was involved in developing a successful proposal to fill this need – the Churchill Hospital Oxford-based BioEscalator due to open in 2016. OBN also produced a report on Bioincubator Best Practice using material from interviews and visits to ten European bioincubators as part of this project. The programme ended in September 2013.
European Institute of Innovation & Technology (EIT) Health KIC
The EIT Health KIC is a consortium of more than 50 partners (and in addition 90 associate organisations) of leading businesses, research centres and universities from 9 EU countries, including Abbott Laboratories from Spain, the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research (Inserm) and the University of Oxford from the UK. Its remit is to contribute to increasing the competitiveness of European industry, improve the quality of life of Europe’s citizens and the sustainability of healthcare system.
The partnership will promote entrepreneurship and develop innovations in healthy living and active ageing, providing Europe with new opportunities and resources. This will be achieved through delivering products, concepts and services, including educational programmes that will nurture talents and train the workforce of tomorrow.
OBN envisages that its involvement with this KIC will open opportunities for Member companies to access EU funding.
Support for facilities bids
OBN supported the successful Didcot University Technical College (UTC) bid. The UTC will provide a scientifically focused and high technology education for up to 600 teenagers, aged 14 to 19. The foci of teaching include life sciences, physical sciences and engineering, alongside a broad and balanced curriculum.
OBN also supported the following infrastructure bids for R&D facilities:
- A BioEscalator at the OUH NHS Trust’s Churchill Hospital received £11m Government funding (Jan 2014) matched by £10m from the private sector to help small bioscience and medical companies share technology and expertise.
- In January 2014, the Milton Science Centre received a grant of up to £7 million to support the development of a £14 million, 40,000 sq ft specialist science centre for small and growing businesses within the life sciences sector. The balance of funding will be provided by park owners, MEPC. Announced in December 2013 by Universities and science minister David Willetts,
- The Harwell Open Innovation Hub, will receive a £7m Government contribution towards a 43,000 sq ft building to offer new start-up support, conference, meeting and innovation space currently lacking at Harwell Oxford, one of the region’s four Innovation centres.