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The Oxfordshire Economic Observatory: promoting the understanding of the Oxfordshire knowledge-economy


The Observatory carries out multi-disciplinary research into the geographical, planning, institutional, regulatory, managerial, economic, socio-political and cultural issues which are crucial to understanding the knowledge-economy.

Research Themes

The programme of research will be based around eight core themes.

Creation and development of a database of enterprise in Oxfordshire

The database, which will be maintained throughout the life of the Observatory, will catalogue enterprise births, deaths, mergers, acquisitions and employment change, by sector and technology.

International comparisons

International comparisons are essential to understanding processes of entrepreneurship, technological advance and economic development in Oxfordshire and in other leading regions.

Employment: supply and demand

What is the changing mix of labour by skill, age, gender and education? How is the nature of work in different sections of the high-tech economy changing? What will be the future of work in the emerging knowledge-economy?

Evaluating the significance of clusters for technological development

How does clustering of activity contribute to technological change in established and emerging technologies? How does Oxfordshire compare with other regions as a pioneer region? What are the relationships between clustering and exports?

Mapping university/national laboratory interaction

What is the true extent of university-industry and national laboratory-industry interaction within the county? How does this compare with industry and science base links in the most successful cases?

Infrastructure and policy networks

A key task of the Observatory will be the periodic assessment of the effectiveness of the policy system as it evolves, in terms of Oxfordshire's ability to sustain its position as a leading centre of innovation. What is Oxfordshire doing to ensure that its economy is sustained by world class hard and soft infrastructure?

The Oxfordshire economy

What is the impact of the growth of the high-tech sector on the demand for products and services in the local area? What are the connections between the high-tech sector and other major industries such as the car industry? What are the impacts of global competition on these industries? What is the role of exports in driving the local economy?

Urban structure and the new economy

What is the interaction between the organisation of the built environment and the development of the new economy? How is this related to changes in the regional, national and international economy?

In addition to research, the Observatory arranges seminars, workshops and briefings, to explore issues and provide informed opinion on topics which concern decision makers.


Current Projects:

Dynamics of two regional triple helix spaces' Europe: Oxfordshire in UK and the Region Centro in Portugal

The project builds on long-term research on the evolution of the Oxfordshire high-tech economy by undertaking a quantitative comparison with another high-tech region, Region Centro of Portugal, in collaboration with colleagues at the University of Beira Interior, Portugal.

University Technology Transfer in Sweden (Chalmers University) and the UK (Oxford University)

This study examines how different institutional settings affect the commercialization/exploitation of university research in Europe. By analyzing both patents and spin-offs the study will shed light on two processes for the commercialization of university research. University technology transfer at two universities in two countries with different inventor ownership regulations is being investigated. The two cases are Oxford University in the UK and Chalmers University in Sweden. The Oxford case will be used to illustrate the university ownership model, while the Chalmers case represents the inventor ownership model.

Where are they now? Oxfordshire's high-tech economy - firm survival, growth and innovation

This study is investigating what has happened to the 182 companies identified as 'advanced technology' in the mid-1980s. The context to the study is changes in the Oxfordshire high technology economy. By examining patterns of development in firms that were operating in the 1980s, the study contributes to a better understanding of processes of regional economic development. It also provides insights into where particular locations fit into broader systems of entrepreneurship and innovation.

The Oxford Phenomenon: review of the high tech sector and context

OEO is working with SQW on a study for University of Oxford on the Oxford Phenomenon. The study explores a number of themes relating to the growth of the high tech sector in Oxfordshire in comparison with the Thames Valley and the Cambridge sub-region. This is positioned within the context of demographic change, the development of the innovation ecosystem and financial and professional services and in an understanding how the spatial footprint of the knowledge economy in Oxfordshire has evolved and current and prospective future bottlenecks and constraints. View report.


OEO is working with on a FP7- REGIONS study, Health-TIES, led in Oxford by Professor Bass Hassan, Dunn School of Pathology. The Health-TIES consortium combines clinical science with engineering science, businesses, regional authorities, and well-established Bioscience Parks. Three of the five best European institutions in Engineering and Information Technology (ETH Zürich, Oxford University and Delft University of Technology) participate in Health-TIES, together with three universities that rank among the top 10 research centres in clinical medicine in Europe (Erasmus University Medical Center Rotterdam, University of Oxford, Leiden University Medical Center).

OEO is contributing data analysis of key trends in the biomedical sector in Oxfordshire and the Thames Valley, and in the infrastructure which supports the sector.

Oxford University, Oxford Brookes and the County's government laboratories spin-off companies: number and performance.

Against the background to the UK government's interest in encouraging universities and government laboratories to be more enterprising, this study aims to identify the number of science and technology-based firms that have their origins in Oxfordshire's universities and government laboratories. The study will review how well these spin-off companies are performing using a series of indicators including employment growth, turnover, patents and licensing. It will compare how well Oxfordshire is performing with similar locations.

Recent Projects:

Structure and Dynamics of the South East Economy Reducing Intra-Regional Disparities Oxfordshire Case Study

Joint study with Miles Strategic Consulting, GOSE:/SEEDA.

Technicians: Planning for the next generation of skills.

Outputs - Report and Seminar held at the Saïd Business School, 18 May 2004. Organised by the Oxford2cambridge Arc, The Oxford Trust.