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- Two world-class universities, around 700 environmental researchers
- 60+ environmentally-focussed community groups, largest number in country
- High-tech economic clusters in space and satellites applications, life sciences and advanced engineering
- Nationally-recognised strength in automotives, building technologies and renewable energy
- In the top five counties in the UK for low-carbon enterprise
With its natural advantages, the county is abuzz with innovative activity and poised for progress. However, a number of key challenges threaten to undermine our wellbeing and the beauty of our natural surroundings.
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Population: About 660,000, growing at an unprecedented rate, and expected to hit 747,100 (+13%) by 2026
Most rural county in the South East, with more than half in towns and villages with populations of 10,000 or less
Area: About 2,600 km2, with 1/4 in listed Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty
Fuel poor: 11.9% of households in fuel poverty, compared to the English average 8.9%
High house prices, with Oxford city the least affordable in the UK and prices rising every year
A commuting county: 70% of those working in Oxford city commute by car, and 54% county-wide drive to work regularly. 12.9% work from home, compared to the national average of 10.6%
Facing the challenges of today
A great global challenge for humanity in the 21st century is ensuring that everyone in a rapidly growing population has sustainable access to clean air, clean water, clean food and clean energy in conjunction with the preservation and enhancement of a flourishing and productive natural environment.
In Oxfordshire, there is no time to lose. Key challenges include:
- providing affordable housing for a growing population;
- easing traffic congestion, reducing the need for commuting and reducing air pollution;
- providing jobs for the county’s highly skilled population;
- reducing inequality and social divide;
- reducing carbon emissions and supporting the development of renewable energy provision.
We face many other environmental challenges too, from flooding to fuel poverty, food waste to biodiversity loss.
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‘Oxford’ – long established as a global brand – is the historic city at the heart of our county, and plays host to over 9 million visitors every year. The county’s landscape is a patchwork of grazing, arable fields and woodland, criss-crossed with small rivers feeding into the larger Thames, and dotted with numerous towns and picturesque villages.
Our high quality natural and cultural environment attracts investors, entrepreneurs and highly skilled labour, with 47% of our labour force graduates, compared to 34% in the UK as a whole. The county also enjoys an extraordinary amount and diversity of environmental expertise, spread across different sectors.
This diversity of physical habitats, global visiblity and wealth of skilled workers and environmental expertise gives Oxfordshire its potential as a highly-useful living lab and leading hub for environmental research and innovation.
Creating a future-ready Oxfordshire: seeing challenges as opportunities
Building on the county’s advantages, there are firm plans to face these challenges, develop the economy and improve our quality of life:
- The Oxford Strategic Partnership was founded in 2003 to promote joined-up approaches for improving quality of life in the city. It draws members from government services (health, local government, the police) and other bodies concerned with business, heritage and the environment.
- The local economic plan, OxLEP, has ambitious targets for business, transport and housing – these are recognised local economic strengths that have the potential to transform the county.
- In this context, recent research has shown that investment in Oxfordshire’s low carbon economy has huge potential to contribute to achieving these ambitions.
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CURRENT: The sector already represents:
- 8,800 jobs
- 570 business
- £1.15 billion per year in sales
- 7% of the local economy
Oxfordshire has three nationally acknowledged areas of local strength:
- Building technologies
- Renewable energy
The county also enjoys a hugely active community action scene, led by the 50+ Community Action Groups (the highest number in the country), organising events and projects to take action on waste, transport, food, energy and biodiversity. And led by organisations like the Low Carbon Hub, the county is home to renewable energy projects with over £10m of community/crowd funded investment.
POTENTIAL: The rewards of consistent investment in the low-carbon economy are potentially huge. By 2030, the county could enjoy:
- Up to 11,000 new jobs
- £1.35 billion per year boosting the local economy
This would require an annual investment of £300m.
“To put this spending in context, we already spend £1 billion every year – cash that is lost to the county to become someone else’s profit – on importing carbon-based energy.” (Joining the Crowd, 2014)
Agile-ox is working to put environmental innovation at the heart of Oxfordshire’s future. We want to foster further synergy and collaboration between cutting-edge environmental research and the requirements of local people. There is every reason to explore Oxford University’s environmental research for answers to local issues and to encourage local people to help set the research agenda.
We already have a buzzing ‘ecosystem’ of enterprise, research, market growth and local engagement, and we believe that increasing collaboration will generate benefits. By joining the dots we want to create a stronger, more future-ready, more agile Oxfordshire.