Oxford Innovation and Oxford Innovation Services

History and Heritage

Oxford Innovation and Oxford Innovation Services both have roots in the first ever commercial spin-out from Oxford University – Oxford Instruments PLC. Founded in 1959 by Martin and Audrey Wood, Oxford Instruments started in Wood’s humble garden shed – it is now a world leading organisation, bridging the gap between science and the consumer by turning smart science into commercially successful products.

The Wood’s experience of creating and growing a spin-out company revealed the challenges by young entrepreneurs at that time. In the early 1980’s there were still no science parks or innovation hubs and suitable premises in Oxford were hard to find. Audrey and Martin decided to create a charity called The Oxford Trust (now operating as Science Oxford) – with a mission to encourage the pursuit and application of science.

The Oxford Trust began  with a small ‘science nursery’ in Summertown big enough for just 4 companies but it wasn’t long before the STEP Centre (science, technology enterprise project) was established in an old builders yard at Osney Mead. This development got the Woods thinking about other ways they could support small high-tech companies in Oxfordshire. Right up to the present day, the evolution of business support in Oxfordshire has been driven by their desire to provide support to small companies.

1987: Oxford Innovation was set up as a spin-out of The Oxford Trust. In 1987 Oxford Innovation pioneered Europe’s first innovation centre, The Oxford Centre for Innovation (OCFI). Initially set up in portakabins, and despite being described by the Daily Telegraph as “the Oxford science slum”, the centre proved popular and in 1994, the Prince of Wales opened its new home in Mill Street, where it quickly became a successful model for Oxford Innovation and others to replicate.

1994: Oxford Investment Opportunity Network was set up as a separate company by Oxford Innovation to connect businesses in Oxfordshire with investors in order to secure finance and expertise required for their growth.

2006: Oxford Innovation came together with SQW Consulting, a leading provider of research, analysis and advice on sustainable economic development, to form SQW Group. SQW focuses on developing effective policy and practical support for businesses through the design, delivery and evaluation of business support projects.

2011: Oxford Innovation Services was created in 2011 as a separate company dedicated to delivering expert coaching and advisory support to innovative and ambitious businesses.

2016 and Beyond

Oxford Innovation now manages over 400,000 sq ft of incubation space across a network of 20 Business and Innovation Centres in the UK, providing flexible office and lab space to start-ups and innovative businesses. Current plans will increase access to space to grow for businesses across the UK.

Oxford Innovation Services has coached 7,000 SMEs in the South East and South West of England resulting in the generation 18,000 jobs and £900m of GVA. Transformational economic impact continues to be delivered through a number of innovative business support programmes funded by Local Enterprise Partnerships, European Regional Development Funds, the European Commission and Innovate UK.

Oxford Investment Opportunity Network, a group of three angel investment networks (each servicing business at different stages of their growth journey) has supported businesses to raise in excess of £162m of finance. Oxford Investment Opportunity Network now also manages its own annual SEIS fund investing in a portfolio of exciting and ambitious businesses.


GROWTHmapper is so quick and easy and gave me some useful insights into my business.

-Toni Ertl, MD, The Assay & Control Company

Working with Elliot from Business Think helped us to focus accurately on our target market and devise a strategy to improve our marketing. The biggest benefit was that Elliot assisted us in implementing the strategy rather than just leaving us to it. This improved our knowledge and confidence as well as giving us the discipline necessary for regular marketing.

- Andy Hawkins - Managing Director, Absolute Recycling

Our coach provided excellent support working with managers both to define a way forward and also to help us get out of our sales team

Ben Gillingham -Managing Director, Agspace Agriculture Limited

We have improved every aspect of our growth ambition and are well placed to grow further in the future. Our growth potential is good. We have a much better structure in place to deliver this growth.

The overall service experience?: Very good from start to finish.

Julian Hopkins -Managing Director, Octagon Heating services Ltd

By having a fresh set of eyes come in and work with us, 4twenty2 has already increased its turnover at double the rate we expected and have got a long term strategy in place to capture sustainable growth

David Armes-Managing Director, 4Twenty2 Ltd

Turnover has increased 2 fold since the Coaching programme, We have employed 20 plus new team members, We have totally rewritten our systems and processes which means that the company is now running very well, We have a clear growth and marketing strategy in place with KPI’s to monitor progress.

Tim Kitchen -Managing Director, Exposure Trading Ltd