After months of lobbying Ministers in Westminster, I was delighted to join the Chancellor at Begbroke Science Park in January where he announced nearly £70m of Science investment in four new innovation hubs at Begbroke, Harwell, Culham and Headington.
This investment is part of a bigger ‘City Deal’ for Oxfordshire that includes £55 million of central government funding for innovation, transport and skills will be combined with £40 million from local authorities to bring in over £600 million from industry. It will create more than 18,000 long term jobs and more than 30,000 construction jobs during the development period. It will include improvements to the A34 and A44 to ease traffic problems. It includes a better access to business advice for start ups, new housing and 500 more apprenticeships.
The City Deal is a great vote of confidence in our local innovation economy, which is already world leading in many fields. Oxfordshire has the potential to be an innovation powerhouse for Britain but to achieve that we also need the investment in our physical and digital infrastructure. Our City Deal isn’t just £1bn of investment in our roads, housing, skills and innovation – it is about a long term vision for our local economy and about local leaders from all political parties, from business, from academia working together to make it happen.
But it doesn’t stop there.
In June, the Government announced even more investment in local skills, flood defences and transport, as part of the flagship Oxfordshire Growth Deal.
The Deal builds on the success of our £1.2bn Oxfordshire City Deal and will see at least a further £108.5m of Government funding invested in Oxfordshire’s infrastructure and innovation economy – it will deliver more housing and more jobs; A40 improvements so we can all get to our jobs instead of sitting in stationary traffic; more training at a new Advanced Technology and Engineering Skills Centre in Abingdon, and, crucially, we are step closer to fully funding the Oxford Flood Relief Channel so that so that our homes, businesses, roads and rail are protected from flooding no matter what the weather.
It will create 5,700 additional jobs and 4,000 more homes and generate at least £100m of further private sector investment.
The message of Oxfordshire’s City Deal and now the Growth Deal is that the Government back local people who have a vision for their local economy and trust them to deliver on that vision.
Week in, week out I visit local businesses ranging from start ups to major international players and the message I take away is that without question some of the most exciting and innovative entrepreneurship in the UK is happening right here in Oxfordshire and that they want a Government that will invest in the physical and digital infrastructure needed, keep corporation tax low, create effective R&D incentives and cut red tape down to the bone.