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Oxfordshire set to grow as a powerhouse of UK investment in science and technology

PUBLISHED: 11:49 21 August 2015 | UPDATED: 11:49 21 August 2015

Venturefest Oxford brings together leading businesses, entrepreneurs and investors to boost regional business growth strategy

On the same day that the Chancellor announced new budget measures designed to keep UK plc on the path to economic growth - in Oxfordshire innovators and entrepreneurs joined young businesses, investors and support service providers at Venturefest 2015 – the county’s top annual business networking event.

Staged at the Saïd Business School in Oxford and now in its 17th successful year, over 1,000 delegates took part in live debates and workshops, aimed at driving forward the already substantial investment in the county, particularly within the science and technology sectors.

The event included a full day of live-pitching, punctuated by keynote speeches; to expert panels; a conversation between Oxford and Cambridge on what drives innovation and free, personalised and objective advice from local industry experts.

Launched in 1999 in Oxford, as a collaboration between the Science Minister, Lord Sainsbury and the University of Oxford, the original vision was to bring together Oxfordshire’s entrepreneurs, innovators and investors, with Venturefest acting as the catalyst for networking, funding, making deals and building business relationships.

With a new Executive Chair at the helm in 2015, Lynn Shepherd has set about re-shaping the ambition of Venturefest Oxford, broadening its focus and moving away from a stand-alone event, to a year-long programme of business-focused activities – all tailored to the four stages of a business’ journey: birth, childhood, adolescence, adulthood – each with different business requirements to be met.

Some of the highlights of this year’s Venturefest programme include:

• Over £1 billion raised by Oxford investors to back start-up businesses and new spinouts from the research institutions, investing in the rising stars of the Oxford Tech Cluster – a group of entrepreneurs, investors, high technology businesses and researchers based in Oxford’s science parks, research centres and universities.

• The launch of the Enterprise Awards 2015 by the Oxford Trust, recognising innovative entrepreneurs pushing the boundaries of science and technology. Applications for the Enterprise Awards opened on 8 July at Venturefest, with winners to be announced at an awards ceremony in November. There are three categories:

• Martin and Audrey Wood Enterprise Award - An award of £5,000 for overall achievement in innovation aimed at science, technology and engineering-based companies who have spotted an opportunity in a niche market and created a new concept that not only meets this need but also benefits the wider community.

• Young entrepreneur of the year – recognising the exceptional young entrepreneurs in the region, in companies less than 5 years old, and the impact that they have had on the science and innovation landscape.

• Up and coming company of the year - celebrates new up and coming companies less than 5 years old across the region and the impact they’ve had on the science and innovation landscape.

•The first-ever Oxfordshire Business Festival, aiming to showcase business in Oxfordshire, through a week-long series of events, including behind-the-scenes visits to the Oxford Bus Company and Oxford Apprenticeships.

•Oxford and Cambridge in Conversation: How to get beneath the rhetoric and get some action! Chaired by Lord Drayson, former Science Minister, a panel discussed the growth and innovation agenda. Cambridge has been successful in harnessing the power of local innovation to drive growth. Oxford has a thriving culture of innovation and is also using it to push through growth in the region.

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