Oxford Sustainable Future Symposium

Oxford skyline

Oxford, as with many parts of the county, is faced with a wide range of challenges that constrain our ability to provide a world class environment for our people. In June, three strategic organisations joined together for the Oxford Sustainable Future Symposium, which explored a route to addressing many of these issues.

The Symposium was attended by 85 people, representing all six local councils, the boards of the Local Enterprise Partnership (OxLEP) and the Oxford Strategic Partnership (OSP), both universities (Oxford and Oxford Brookes), local colleges and a wide range of businesses, as well as various community interest groups.

The event set out to gain a deeper, shared understanding of the challenges and opportunities that face our community; to establish a collective will to find and deliver realistic solutions; and to reach some agreement on how we can best work together to create a sustainable future in a timely and resourceful way.

Speaker at the event, Lord Drayson, challenged stakeholders to focus on creating a single voice to which Government can respond more effectively with appropriate levels of support and investment. Copies are available of both the Symposium Report and an Executive Summary of the event are available on the website of the Oxford Strategic Partnership.

As part of the follow-up, refresh of the Strategic Economic Plan is being led by OxLEP, with consultation during the autumn and new year, culminating in a series of ‘check and challenge’ sessions, one of which will be hosted at the OSP annual Open Event in February. To register your interest in attending, email info@oxfordshirelep.com.

Image: South Park, Oxford, Ed Webster. Creative Commons 2.0; Original image cropped.

Event: Resilient Oxford workshop – 26th Oct 2015

By: Smart Oxford

12:30-4:30, Town Hall, St Aldate’s, Oxford OX1 1BX

logos of Low Carbon Oxford, Agile Ox and Smart Oxford

This workshop will bring together a diverse array of city stakeholders from the public & private sectors, academia, and local communities, to help identify and evaluate the city’s challenges and resilience-building priorities in a cross-group and interdisiplinary way.

The output of the workshop will inform Oxford’s forthcoming bid in the 100 Resilient Cities Challenge.

Find out more on the Resilient Oxford website.

Oxford City Council shortlisted in National Air Quality Awards

By: Oxford City Council

Oxford City Council has been shortlisted in the National Air Quality Awards.

The Council has been shortlisted in the Local Authority Air Quality Initiative of the Year award for the Low Emission Zone in the city centre.

The zone was introduced last year by the City Council and Oxfordshire County Council and requires local bus services to operate low emission vehicles.

The National Air Quality Awards will take place in Bristol on Thursday 22 October.

Councillor John Tanner, Executive Board member for Climate Change, said: “Oxford City Council is leading the way in how to improve air quality and I am pleased to see that we are being recognised for that. But air quality in parts of Oxford city centre remains a concern and we must not rest on our laurels.”

Other recent City Council work to improve air quality has included agreeing an air quality action plan in 2013, reducing the emissions of the Council’s own vehicles, making £250,000 worth of improvements to the cycle network and bidding for £9m to encourage the use of electric vehicles in Oxford.

For more information about air quality in Oxford, visit: www.oxford.gov.uk/airquality.


This article first appeared on the Oxford City Council website on 21st Oct 2015.

Improve the Air in Oxford – Join the CleanSpace Movement & Grab a Tag

By: CleanSpace Team, Drayson Technologies

smartphones running the air quality app

Across the UK, thousands of people have downloaded the CleanSpace app and are earning CleanMiles when they travel cleanly by foot or by bike, redeeming them for rewards with our high street and online partners. But, this is just the beginning. If the people of Oxford join the movement with us and kickstart the CleanSpace network in their local area, we can start to get a much better picture of air quality in Oxford and can help to make it better.

Plus, with our Freevolt technology, you’ll never need to charge your Tag or change its battery as it’s recharged wirelessly by harvesting energy from the existing cellular and WiFi networks. That’s a world first. You can keep the Tag anywhere you like, in your handbag, a jacket pocket, in your rucksack or even in your child’s buggy – as long as it isn’t in an airtight bag the Tag can pick up what’s in the air and the app will help you avoid the nasty stuff!

A Tag not only makes your CleanSpace app even more useful by providing hyper-local pollution data so you can choose cleaner routes, but also makes everyone’s experience of CleanSpace better by building a crowd-sourced picture of air quality. If enough people carry Tags, we’ll be able to build the most detailed map of air pollution for everyone, everywhere.

So, why not download the free CleanSpace app from the App Store or Google Play, grab a Tag at crowdfunder and start improving the air you breathe in Oxford, the UK and the World.

picture of phone

Digital Minister welcomes innovative approach to delivering high-speed broadband in Oxfordshire

By: Oxfordshire County Council

Ed Vaizey, Digital Economy Minister, has been seeing first-hand how a mixture of technologies and innovations are being used in the roll-out of high-speed broadband by the ‘Better Broadband for Oxfordshire’ partnership to some of the more rural parts of the county.

Ed Vaizey, Digital Economy Minister at Fernham village

Earlier this month, he was in the village of Fernham to see for himself how unusual challenges have been overcome to enable residents and businesses there to access the same faster broadband speeds that are being made available elsewhere.

Ed Vaizey, Digital Economy Minister welcomed the news that Fernham homes and businesses will be able to access high speed broadband. He said: “This is fantastic news for the homes and businesses in Fernham who are joining the tens of thousands premises in Oxfordshire that can already access superfast broadband as a result of our rollout.

“Together with Better Broadband for Oxfordshire, we are working hard to ensure that hard-to-reach areas in Oxfordshire, such as Fernham, are able to enjoy all the benefits that superfast broadband has to offer.”

Bill Murphy, BT’s managing director of next generation broadband, said: “Better Broadband for Oxfordshire is a huge engineering undertaking and the roll-out is going well. However, we encountered some unexpected challenges when rolling out the technology to Fernham which meant we couldn’t connect the village in the normal way.

“Our project teams worked together to find the right solution for Fernham. As a result, villagers will soon be able to upgrade to high-speed broadband – with many seeing a ten-fold increase in speeds – and access the same benefits that are being enjoyed by an increasing number of homes and businesses as we continue our ambitious roll-out across Oxfordshire.

“But we know there is still much more to do. BT is committed to rolling out faster broadband as widely and quickly as possible. Working with the Government, local authorities and communities, we are determined to find solutions for even the most challenging areas.”

Councillor Nick Carter, Cabinet Member for Business and Customer Services, said: “I am delighted that our programme has been able to bring superfast to Fernham using innovative solutions. The programme continues to deliver on time and within budget and we remain committed to the continuing roll out across Oxfordshire.”

Better Broadband for Oxfordshire is part of the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) programme. In February the partnership announced an additional £5.1 million worth of funding which will extend the rollout to an additional 6,500 premises*.

Residents and businesses will need to sign up for a fibre package to benefit from improved speeds, but because the network is being installed by Openreach it is ‘open’, so everyone can choose from a choice of broadband service providers, with more than 140 now operating in the UK. Local people choosing to upgrade will be able to get download speeds of up to 80 megabits (Mbps) and uploads of up to 20Mbps*.

About Better Broadband for Oxfordshire 

Better Broadband for Oxfordshire is a partnership between Oxfordshire County Council, BT and BDUK. Totalling £25 million the first phase of the programme is made up of £10m from Oxfordshire County Council, £4m from the Government (Broadband Delivery UK) and £11m from BT. It builds on the existing commercial footprint in the county with the aim that at least 90 per cent of all premises will have access to superfast broadband speeds of 24 Mbps and above by the end of 2015.

In February 2015 Better Broadband for Oxfordshire announced £5.1 million of additional funding for a further phase of the programme made up follows: £1 million from South Oxfordshire District Council, £500,000 from Cherwell District Council, £250,000 from the Vale of the White Horse District Council, £200,000 from Oxfordshire County Council, £1.2m from BT, and a further £1.95m from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport’s Superfast Extension Programme (SEP). This would enable the programme to roll-out fibre broadband to an additional 6,500 properties beginning in 2016.

For further details to go www.betterbroadbandoxfordshire.org.uk

* These are the top wholesale speeds available from Openreach to all service providers; speeds offered by service providers may vary.

This article previously appeared on the Oxfordshire County Council website on 16th October 2015.

Oxford submits 9m bid to encourage the use of electric vehicles

By: Oxford City Council

We have submitted a £9m bid to the Government to encourage more people to use electric vehicles.

If the bid is successful, we will use the money to give people financial incentives to use electric vehicles and install more charging points across the city.

We will also trial in the city the use of new smart lamp posts, which have been designed by BMW and contain electric vehicle charging points.

We have put together the bid, which was submitted on 1 October, with Oxfordshire County Council and will find out if we are successful later this year.

Although air quality is improving – nitrogen dioxide levels have reduce by 30 per cent since 2011 – the targets for air quality are still not being met in Oxford.

That is why at Oxford City Council we are doing all we can to help.

Last year we helped introduce a Low Emission Zone in the city centre requiring local bus providers to operate low emission vehicles; we have reduced the emissions of our own fleet of vehicles, using e-cars where we can; and have made £250,000 worth of improvements to the cycling network.

But ultimately the quality of our air is everyone’s responsibility. You can help make a difference by using public transport, car sharing, cycling or walking more frequently.

cars in Oxford


This article first appeared on Oxford City Council’s facebook page, on October 8th 2015.

The Smart Oxford Challenge – innovative ideas for smarter cities

By: Bryan Marshall, Nominet

Nominet Smart Oxford Challenge - picture of participant

Click the image above to see all the photos from the day

Last month, Nominet R&D held the Smart Oxford Challenge, a one-day, startup accelerator to help fledgling entrepreneurs create compelling smart city and IoT innovations for the city of Oxford and beyond.

The room began buzzing at 9am and didn’t stop until 9pm. Energy levels throughout the day were incredible and a testament to all who participated and helped out. A big thank you again to everyone involved, the positivity was fantastic and appreciated.

Smart Oxford Challenge participant

Thirteen teams in all presented their ideas and business concepts throughout the day to a range of experts, mentors, local businesses and public sector officials. This was accompanied by a set of informative talks and followed by an evening event of networking and a chance for the participants to present to a panel of local decision makers and influential people. A particularly memorable point was around 5pm, when the teams had a chance to do a three-minute elevator pitch to the whole room, and then subjected themselves to rapid fire comments back from the crowd. Well done to all for surviving those pressurised conditions!

We had deliberately picked a range of ideas at different stages of maturity. Some were working prototypes with business plans, others just at the concept stage. All with the same aim of benefiting Oxford and other cities in the world, with smart city thinking. However there were also some common themes, such as air quality monitoring and smart parking, which reflects the current interest in these smart cities topics.

Smart Oxford Challenge application

I had the pleasure of being the mentor for the HOK team who were presenting the idea of responsive, dynamically controllable bike lanes and road surfaces. In a city like Oxford where transport congestion is so endemic, unusual and innovative solutions like this need to be explored. Without a doubt ideas like these need a lot of funding and cooperation with local organisations to even start a trial. However, that certainly isn’t the case for everything and many projects showed that you could achieve an awful lot at a small scale. For instance the Oxford Brookes parking sensing system nicely demonstrated that by using a very simple and cheap ultrasonic sensor attached to a test car, along with a lot of clever coding, you could see what parking spaces are available along the roads of Oxford. The reality is that smart city solutions will come from both the infrastructural angle and organically grown from the ground up. The challenge of a really smart city is to enable both of these approaches to flourish and meet in the middle. Oxford is already showing how this is possible with the city led Smart Oxford initiative alongside projects like the citizen driven Flood Network.

Another message that came out loud and clear, from our feedback panel and in general, was that the teams who had a very clear idea of how to act upon data being collected had the strongest overall concepts. That fits well with our belief that smart cities should really be about deploying technologies to solve real problems that matter to people, not just deploying technology for collecting or analysing data for the sake of it. The proof of this was evident with the Trackener project where the team had a real passion for their new business, knew what data they wanted to capture and what the end user wanted to know.

Smart Oxford Challenge participants

But at the end of the day, what was really interesting to see was, that in amongst all the high tech, the concept that everyone was universally drawn to was Robin’s (real name) Nest Project. Low on tech but high on design simplicity, it just goes to prove that a great looking product with a really nice pitch and beautiful supporting materials always attracts attention. One to remember whilst in the depths of coding your next product!

Time to get our thinking caps on for how to top this … 

– Bryan

This article was first published in the Nominet R&D Blog in September 2015.

Oxfordshire to host the UK’s largest community-owned rooftop solar

By: Low Carbon Hub

Prodrive and the Low Carbon Hub today announced an agreement to develop a community-owned rooftop solar PV installation on Prodrive’s Banbury headquarters in early 2016.

Prodrive logo

The project will be fully funded by the Low Carbon Hub – an Oxfordshire-wide social enterprise – and will generate green electricity for Prodrive, deliver an annual financial benefit of approximately £20,000 to low carbon community projects in the region, and provide a fair return to the Hub’s investors.

David Richards, chairman of Prodrive, said: “Renewable energy is vital for all our futures. Our new headquarters by the M40 has a large south facing roof and it made absolute sense to use it to generate clean electricity for us and to help fund similar renewable energy projects in our local community.”

Employing more than 500 staff across sites in Banbury and Milton Keynes, Prodrive is best known for its numerous motorsport successes which include Formula One, The World Rally Championship, Touring Car Titles and the Le Mans 24 hour race. In recent years however Prodrive has diversified and is now equally well known for its work on advanced technology projects in a wide range of sectors, including renewable energy.

The project will generate 636kW of renewable electricity when operational, the equivalent of providing electricity for more than 150 homes, which will be used to help power Prodrive’s headquarters. Surplus income from the project will fund community energy projects, such as insulating homes to make them more energy efficient, and providing Solar PV for schools where the projects would not otherwise be financially viable.

The Prodrive-Hub project follows on from the Norbar Torque Tools community Solar PV project earlier this year. When completed, it is likely to be the largest community owned rooftop Solar PV installation in the country.

Dr Barbara Hammond, CEO of the Low Carbon Hub said: “It’s great to partner with forward-thinking businesses like Prodrive. If all the tenants in the Central One Business Park were to follow Prodrive’s lead on community energy partnerships, we could generate enough green energy to power the equivalent of 700 households. The social, economic and environmental impact for Oxfordshire would be significant.”

Changes to the Government’s Feed in Tariff pre-accreditation rules for renewable energy projects meant that the Low Carbon Hub and Prodrive had to get all the pre-agreements, including from the local electricity network operator – Western Power – in place by the end of September; a process that can take a couple of months.

Tim Crisp, the Hub’s project manager, said: “Western Power were fantastic in confirming capacity on their networks far more quickly than they were obliged to. They really seemed to understand how important this project was to us and responded to this urgency. The project couldn’t have gone ahead without them.”

It will become more common for businesses to supply their own energy by 2020, according to recent research. A survey by Vlerick Business School’s Energy Centre, in partnership with KPMG, found more than a third of energy executives in Europe believe it will be a common occurrence for customers to go off grid by 2020 .

Image courtesy of Prodrive.