B4 Property Day. Oxford Innovation on demand for workspace

During lockdown The Oxford Trust has seen unprecedented enquires for its office and lab space across its two innovation centres, managed by Oxford Innovation, with an increase of over 300% in the last four months.

Enquiries have been up from 27 to 62 or 130% for The Oxford Centre for Innovation in the city centre and up 486% from 14 to 82 enquiries for The Wood Centre for Innovation in Headington’s Health and Life Sciences District.

One of the most notable things to emerge from the COVID-19 situation is a reassessment by companies of what’s important to them and their employees. It has highlighted that enhanced flexibility and shaping the workspace is key to survival – especially at the early stages of company development.

The Trust’s licence model offers start-ups and some grow-on companies and SMEs cost-effective and flexible workspace as opposed to lease arrangements that sit on a company’s balance sheet and are hard to get out of without high costs. By their nature, leases are inflexible with the certainty going to the landlord and the risk largely lies with the client.

The Trust’s licensing agreement for workspace in its innovation centres might come at a slightly higher up-front cost but has limited liabilities on the client side as the risk lies with the centre owner. In these uncertain times, having flexible certainty of a well-structured licence from a trusted provider can be the best way forward. The Oxford Trust has been running innovation centres on this basis for the last 35 years.

An extra benefit which The Trust offers that businesses have been utilising is one-to-one business support through Oxford Innovation’s Innovation Director, Wendy Tindsley. Whether it is general business advice, introducing businesses to useful contacts or providing information and support in grant funding, the inclusion of this service in the flexible workspace rental package has proven attractive to its occupiers. Wendy has helped several businesses based in The Trust’s innovation centres during lockdown with some key challenges, keeping them on track in difficult times.

Steve Burgess, chief executive, The Oxford Trust said: “Enquiries have risen hugely during lockdown and five new businesses have joined our innovation centres, including Spintex, Akrivia Health, Living Optics, Printpool, and SSEN and two more have expanded – ColdQuanta and Visual Meaning.”

Alex Greenhalgh Spintex
Alex Greenhalgh Spintex

“The Trust has found that many start-up businesses are looking for technical workspace and R&D labs alongside office space, which we offer at the Wood Centre for Innovation in Headington. The Centre sits in 15 acres of woodland and the low energy sustainably sourced building and the well-designed workspace has attracted a cohort of start-up companies focussed on sustainable energy projects, such as the Low Carbon Hub and SSEN.”

“All our occupiers have exciting stories to tell with many working on leading-edge start-up ideas such as quantum positioning systems, online learning platforms, an app to track research samples in labs, VR for psychological treatments or even artificially spun silk. We continue our mission to provide start-ups with workspace which in turn helps us our Science Oxford team deliver our STEM education and engagement programmes.”

The Oxford Trust is in discussions with various new companies looking to join its thriving science and technology start-up community in 2021.

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