Innovative Oxford : empowering

By: Smart Oxford : 08 August 2017

The Shared City: | experimenting | engaging | expanding | empowering

Empowering our citizens, workers and visitors

As well as providing a range of innovation and learning spaces,
as the Shared City, we strive to connect people, spaces, information and ideas, via:

We continue to build on citizen-empowering innovation such as last year’s conversion of the city’s citizen-driven interactive flood monitoring platform to work with The Things Network, with improvements to our HMO Licencing Scheme and with this year’s Smart Oxford Playable City competition, as well as the launch in 2016 of our open data platform and our plans to make our city mapping data freely available online to all people across the city and beyond.

  Engaging the Community

Oxford is host to a number of intiatives and events (more of which are listed on our page on engaging) that engage thousands of participants from across the ecosystem, stimulating ideas and innovation:

   OxOpenData – Open Data platform

Launched in 2016, OxOpenData is an Open Data platform for Oxford and the surrounding area.

It aims to empower citizens and city groups by providing a space where people and organisations can make available and find in one place a wide range of data about the city and surrounding area, in accessible formats.

As well as acting as an enabler for the public, the platform provides an API (Application Programming Interface) that supports its use by developers to create applications for the city and surrounding areas, and to help researchers access, analyse and share information about Oxford and Oxfordshire.

Our ambition is to open up access to data to encourage innovation and the uptake of ideas to solve help to the area’s problems.

All data may be viewed, re-used and downloaded under licence.

   OXONBIKES Scheme

In May 2016 OXONBIKE, the popular bike share network in Oxford, added e-bikes (electric power assisted bicycles), to its existing pedal bike fleet to become the first scheme in the UK to offer both types of bikes.

OXONBIKE now offers up to 80 bikes at 13 docking stations across Oxford including the John Radcliffe Hospital, the Churchill Hospital and the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre.

The scheme expansion is funded by a £34,000 grant from the UK Department for Transport through Bikeplus’s Shared Electric Bike programme, with match funding of £30,000 from the University of Oxford with the goal of reducing traffic congestion and improving air quality through active travel.

   coding initiatives

Codebar Oxford is a non-profit initiative that facilitates the growth of a diverse tech community in Oxford by running regular programming workshops.

Its goal is to enable underrepresented people to learn programming in a safe and collaborative environment and expand their career opportunities. To achieve this it runs free regular workshops, regular one-off events and try to create opportunities for our students making technology and coding more accessible.

It works with Smart Oxford partner Science Oxford to facilitate events such as August’s Micro:bit Workshop.

Science Oxford’s Creative Computer Club runs weekly and is open to all aged 9-12 and 12-15.

Coderdojo Oxford is free coding club for young people run by NaturalMotion (an Oxford University spin-out that sold in 2014 for $527M).

As well as holding events, Codedojo Oxford holds weekly sessions at the University of Oxford’s Mathematical Institute.

It is is facilitated by volunteer mentors from the industry. Attenders don’t need any coding experience – just to bring a laptop and come along.

   Good Food Oxford

CAG member Good Food Oxford is a citizen-driven network for a better food system in Oxford, working together for healthy, fair, sustainable and tasty food.

The aim of Good Food Oxford is to identify and catalyse actions by individuals and organisations that will promote a healthy, fair, ethical and environmentally sustainable food system in and around Oxford. Good Food Oxford supports initiatives that increase the beneficial outcomes from our food system.

Funding from our municipal authorities and other sources such as the Oxfordshire Community Foundation and Oxfordshire LEADER funding supports two part-time staff who work with a wide network of partners in Oxford.

Their work includes innovative projects such as their collaboration this year with Oxford City Council to produce the Oxford Food Access Database identifying food access services across Oxford, engagement with our research and innovation community via events like Research Kitchen, the mapping of food poverty in Oxford, and innovation new approaches to food assistance as part of our Healthy New Town initiative.

   Oxfordshire Community Foundation

Oxfordshire Community Foundation (OCF) is an independent charity that connects people who care with causes that matter. It inspires local philanthropy, and nurtures community-based solutions to key social problems across the city and county.

The foundation collaborates with private philanthropists, family trusts, businesses and the public sector to provide a permanent, flexible and growing source of local charitable funding.

OCF has built an endowment fund of nearly £5 million, and awarded more than £5 million in grants to local community groups working to make Oxford and the surrounding county a better place. It aims to increase its endowment fund to at least £10 million by 2020.


OCF believes in lasting, strategic and proactive solutions to our societal challenges. To achieve these, it is committed to developing its knowledge and understanding of our local needs and all available resources.

   HealthTec Annual Showcase

The HealthTec annual showcase attracted 233 participants to its 2016 event.

The showcase which brings together professionals from hospitals, industry and academia, to focus on new technologies and research initiatives from the Oxford region.

   Accelerating Healthcare Innovation

In 2016 Harwell HealthTec Cluster hosted Accelerating Healthcare Innovation.

The conference event was aimed at accelerating the uptake of innovative ideas in the health sector and attracted over 250 delegates.


See more examples of community engagement here.


  International Connections

We actively engage with Europe and the world to create long-term relationships with complementary economic, social and environmental benefits:

   Twin Towns

The City of Oxford is twinned with Leiden, Netherlands; Bonn, Germany; Grenoble, France; Perm, Russia and Leon, Nicaragua.

An umbrella group called Oxford International Links (OIL) co-ordinates Oxford’s town twinning arrangements and brings in citizens from across the city to take part.

With the commitment from a dedicated group of volunteers, OIL supports the twinning groups to transform relatively small amounts of seed funding into activities that provide an international dimension to many events and projects happening across Oxford.

Last year the city held events linked with Bonn, Grenoble, and Leon, and hosted a visit from Leiden.

This year saw the inception of Oxford’s City Reps scheme, to engage and empower young people as city representatives.

   iCapital Alumni Network

The city is part of the iCapital Alumni Network and has connected with cities such as Lund, Krakow, Xianjing, Mianyang, Montreal, and Vancouver.

   Inward Investment

In 2016-17 Oxfordshire recorded 108 new investments from national and overseas sources, safeguarding or creating 3,000 jobs.

This investment came from every continent and diverse industry sectors.


  Supporting Business and Developing Skills   

Recognised in this year’s .UK Domain National Analysis as the best place in the UK to start a business, Oxford is a vibrant, inclusive, world-leading economy driven by innovation, enterprise and research excellence.

Our institutions have supported this through funding, networks, training and expertise:

   Practical innovating in healthcare settings

Started in February 2016, a new, free Oxford AHSN programme – Practical innovating in healthcare settings – is helping healthcare staff identify and ensure the uptake of innovative ideas that deliver better patient care and improve cost-effectiveness for our health services.

Many working within our health services have an idea or know of existing innovations that have the potential to transform our services however, there are often considerable challenges to their uptake.

Experience and expertise within the Oxford AHSN has highlighted some of the key barriers – such as the role of evidence as proof of effectiveness, the support needed for innovators both inside and outside of their organisation and the importance of gaining support from their executive team as well as senior management and clinical colleagues.

The key objective of this course is to make the route to the successful uptake of innovative ideas clearer, and to develop participant’s knowledge and skills so that they can deliver with confidence. Students receive about 36 hours of teaching spread over 5 months, consisting of 6 study days, with additional tutorials and small group support.

Some of the first people to take part in the Innovation Programme talk about how it has helped them in the video below.

   Oxford AHSN Entrepreneur Programme

The ongoing Oxford AHSN Entrepreneur Programme is an intensive four-day residential course held at Henley Business School.

Experienced healthcare professionals help the participants maximise their chances of success in the uptake and implementation of their ideas, and taking products to market.

The programme covers these core elements:

  • Clinical need
  • Market analysis and strategy
  • Health economics
  • Intellectual property and product development
  • Funding and finance
  • Regulatory overview
  • Manufacturing
  • Business plans
  • People and leadership
  • Product adoption


   Leading Together Programme

Started in early 2016, over 100 people have now completed the Oxford AHSN’s Leading Together Programme – an innovative leadership development course for professionals and members of the public.

It offers an innovative approach to changing our health service culture – bringing together patients, carers and the public with professionals to reflect and learn from each other. The programme covers:

  • developing knowledge and understanding of the benefits of working collaboratively
  • sharing expertise and experiences to support learning
  • building collaborative networks
  • learning to appreciate different perspectives.


Open to all – patients, carers and and members of the public – who are willing to play a strategic role in healthcare, the programme consists of three one-day workshops, spread over three months, for equal numbers of lay people and professionals in the same geographical area.

The participants work in pairs – one professional with one lay partner – on ideas to solve current challenges for uptake within the service, for example a project to produce localised health bulletins facilitated by Oxford AHSN and other health service groups.

The Programme was a finalist in the Leading for Service Improvement and Innovation category of the regional NHS Leadership Recognition Awards 2017.

The AHSN is also funding places for members of the public (lay contributors) to attend the Oxford Empathy Programme’s International Empathy Colloquium later this year.

   Idea Idol

Idea Idol is a pitching competition open to anyone in Oxford, and members of the public anywhere, for a startup idea with a £10,000 first prize.

Supported by FAB Accelerator, Ridgefield Consulting, the University of Oxford and its commercialisation arm, Oxford University Innovation, the annual competition is run by Oxford Entrepreneurs, the largest Entrepreneurship society in Europe.

See this year’s winning pitch, Azure, in the video below.

   OxLEP Skills

Over the last year, OxLEP Skills has supported Oxford’s youth in participating in the region’s innovation activity through 6000 work placements and 3000 employer engagements.

Oxfordshire Skills Board brings together a wide range of public and private employers, secondary, further and higher education skills providers and stakeholder groups. Working closely with the Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership, it aims for improvements in the skills available to Oxfordshire’s employers and the learning opportunities available to students, residents and workforce.

   OxLEP Programmes & Projects

The Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (OxLEP) has secured £200m worth of funding since 2011 for programmes and projects benefiting the city as well as £2 billion in investment from private sector.

Since 2012, 45,000 new jobs have been created within the region, many of which can be attributed to the programmes and investment delivered through OxLEP programmes.

   ISfB – Innovation Support for Business

A £5.2 million Innovation Support for Business (ISfB) project from Oxfordshire Business Support (OBS) funded through the European Regional Development Fund (£2.6m ERDF plus £2.6m match) is currently being contracted.

Oxfordshire Business Support is the Growth Hub for Oxfordshire provided through the Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (OxLEP).


In an innovative approach to supporting local business people, OBS has built up links with a set of experts in a range of business sectors, to act as Network Navigators, whose expertise the organisation can draw on to help businesses in the area get connected to the appropriate people and resources.

Other initiatives have included an innovation voucher scheme where Oxfordshire based SMEs could use the vouchers to claim back 50% of the costs for business training and specialised research or technical facilities.

   Enterprising Oxford

Open and available for anyone to use and benefit from, Enterprising Oxford is a University of Oxford initiative to help encourage, support and promote entrepreneurship by communicating, collaborating, and connecting with startups and entrepreneurs with links to Oxford and Oxfordshire.

It works closely with Oxford University Innovation, the Entrepreneurship Centre, Oxford Hubs, and the University’s Careers Service to provide a practical source of information, with a focus on basic information and resources, events and training, real life stories, and profiles of startups, spinouts, and SMEs from the Oxfordshire area.

In May, Enterprising Oxford held the inaugural #StartedinOxford Demo Fair which sprang from the city’s #StartedinOxford social media campaign.

   OSEP – Oxfordshire Social Entrepreneurship Partnership

Oxfordshire Social Entrepreneurship Partnership (OSEP) has provided direct support and funding for over 150 individuals and local Social Enterprises, including distributing about £150,000 since it was founded in 2014.

Its Start-up Success Social programme in 2016 attracted 15 social entrepreneurs, 11 of which launched new social enterprises.

You can read more about OSEP on our page on engaging.

   OBSEA – Oxford Brookes Social Enterprise Awards

Oxford Brookes Social Enterprise Awards (OBSEA) is an award-winning programme for students, staff and recent graduates, who are interested in social enterprise or social innovation or who wish to set up and run a social enterprise. It’s about developing real world solutions to social problems, but also about developing your career skills and boosting your employment opportunities.

This year’s event made 17 awards: two ‘Do It’; 13 ‘Try It’; and two ‘Rising Star’ awards. You can hear from the participants and judges in the video below.

   Venturefest Oxford

For 17 years, Venturefest Oxford has put on dynamic, flagship events, connecting entrepreneurs and innovators with investors and mentors annually.

As well as its annual Conference & Networking event, Venturefest holds bi-annual Pitchfest events, combining the opportunity to pitch with informal networking.

In June 2016, Venturefest Oxford attracted over 50 applicants to Pitching for Success, a new platform where businesses can pitch for funding.

   Business in Oxford

Business in Oxford is an annual networking and conference event – a platform for integration, innovation and business growth. Sharing knowledge, experience, expertise and enthusiasm.

Business In Oxford 2017 aspired to be both a knowledge sharing platform and to provide both insights and opportunities, with innovation-oriented sessions such as ‘Innovation in Oxford’ and ‘The Vision of Smart Oxford’.