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Harwell Science and Innovation Campus Awarded ‘Life Sciences Opportunity Zone’ For Pioneering Work and Thriving Ecosystem

The Office for Life Sciences announces Harwell as one of six new designated Zones in the UK - the only one in Oxfordshire/ Thames Valley

Thursday 20th February, Harwell, Oxfordshire: Announced today by the Office for Life Sciences, Harwell Science and Innovation Campus has been designated as a Life Sciences Opportunity Zone, which is awarded for a 10-year period. Harwell, already a world-renowned science and technology campus, is now one of only seven locations in the UK [six announced today], and the only one in Oxfordshire / Thames Valley, to hold the title. With this status secured, Harwell’s Life Sciences capabilities will continue to grow as the announcement further underscores the role of the Campus as a national hub for health and Life Sciences research, and a launch platform for companies looking to grow in the UK.

Introduced in 2016, through the  Life Sciences Sector Deal, the Government has created a small number of specially designated ‘Zones’ in the UK with the purpose of promoting UK Life Sciences capabilities.  The Government will work with Harwell Campus to attract inward and foreign investment, establish trade agreements and promote the Campus as a world-leading location for companies to establish themselves. 

The news comes as Harwell, a 700-acre Campus home to 6,000 people across ~200 organisations [with 30 universities represented onsite], announces the new figures for its HealthTec Cluster. Now with 58 organisations, collectively employing 1,250 people, the Harwell HealthTec Cluster unites government and academic research organisations with industry, and is a vibrant ecosystem of innovative organisations ranging from start-ups though SMEs to major multinationals.

The HealthTec Cluster is centred around £2billion of open access National Physical Laboratories, including the Diamond Light Source, ISIS Neutron and Muon Source, Central Laser Facility, as well as new the Vaccines Manufacturing and Innovation Centre and Rosalind Franklin Institute. Research and commercial work on the multi-disciplinary Campus spans everything from drug discovery, including fragment screening, AI-enhanced drug design, vaccines, vectors and advanced medicines, through to environmental impacts on human health, biomaterials and ageing. This work is underpinned by globally unique multi-modal imaging expertise and capabilities in structural biology, genomics, big data analytics, super-computing, and satellite enabled digital connectivity. Collaboration between researchers, industry, academics and government teams working across this broad spectrum of activity is at the heart of the Campus.

Life Sciences Minister Nadhim Zahawi said: “The UK is home to one of the strongest, most vibrant health and Life Science industries globally, with discoveries and improvements in health diagnosis transforming people’s lives.

“Collaboration is vital to growing this sector”.

Dr Adrian Hill, STFC-UKRI lead for the HealthTec Cluster at Harwell said: “The Campus continues to evolve in order to meet the nation’s technological and health challenges. The Life Sciences Opportunity Zone designation will be a key driver for future growth in Oxfordshire and along the M4 corridor, creating jobs and contributing to UK GDP. I’d like to thank all our partners who worked with us over the past three years to build the reputation of the HeathTec Cluster and helped secure the designation.”*

Nigel Tipple, Chief Executive of the Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (OxLEP) said: “Today’s announcement is excellent news for Oxfordshire. Given Harwell Campus is one of just six new zones to be announced, it’s again a clear example of how we can be at the forefront of a globally-facing UK economy, helping to secure significant investment and alongside this, also boost productivity.

“It also means we – as a county – can continue to enhance our international reputation of being at the forefront of driving forward innovation and finding real solutions to some of the world’s biggest health challenges.

“More locally, by building upon our already world-leading life sciences sector, we can create even more opportunities and benefits for our local communities, whilst – in turn – further inspiring our next generation, helping them to understand the genuine prospects that exist here in Oxfordshire.”

The news comes a week after the Government’s launch of the Nucleic Acid Therapies Accelerator (NATA) and the groundbreaking of the new Extreme Photonics Applications Centre (EPAC), both at Harwell. NATA will lead research in targeting and delivering nucleic acid medicines around the body with the potential to target a range of previously untreatable diseases, including Parkinson’s, Huntingdon’s, many rare genetic diseases, and cancer.  EPAC will be a new advanced imaging centre housing super-bright lasers that produce state-of-the-art 3D X-rays in just 40 seconds. This will accelerate the development of new medical treatments, bring down the cost of manufacturing and enable the identification of design improvements.

Dr Barbara Ghinelli, Director of Clusters and Business Development, STFC-UKRI, said: ““With the recent addition of the Nucleic Acid Therapies Accelerator and Extreme Photonics Applications Centre the Harwell HealthTec Cluster continues to see significant growth. It has been established in a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem that enables collaboration, not just between same-sector organisations but across disciplines, which opens up new opportunities for innovation.  Now with the new Life Sciences Opportunity Zone designation, the cluster will attract more inward investment which will benefit the whole of the UK.”

With a rich heritage and proven track record of Life Sciences world firsts, Harwell Campus is where the Medical Research Council set up its first Radiology Unit in 1940, Dr Mary Lyon discovered the C chromosome inactivation in 1961 and where in 2012 a non-invasive biopsy technique was discovered at the Central Laser Facility as a viable option for diagnosing breast cancer. 

Gordon Duncan, Partner, Harwell Science and Innovation Campus concluded: “The Life Sciences industry contributes over £70 billion per annum to the UK economy and provides 240,000 jobs. Harwell Campus plays an increasingly important role at the centre of this sector. 

“We have a unique platform here to help accelerate research and innovation around the country, taking applied research and turning it into commercial outputs using state of the art technologies and applications – this is unparalleled across Europe.”

Harwell Campus is rapidly expanding via a private public partnership between Harwell Oxford Partners and U+I, plus two Government backed agencies, the Science and Technology Facilities Council (UKRI-STFC) and the UK Atomic Energy Authority.  

Harwell Science and Innovation Campus

With a heritage of 75 years at the forefront of UK innovation and discovery, Harwell Science and Innovation Campus continues to drive scientific advancements to the benefit of the UK economy and to improve the human condition, centered around an open innovation community and culture. The contribution that Harwell makes to the UK is significant - leading in research and achieving commercial success in key global markets, including Life Sciences, Space, Energy, Supercomputing, AI and Big Data. With 6,000 people employed across ~200 public, private, and academic organisations, and an estimated GVA of over £1billion, Harwell provides job creation and economic growth that benefits the whole country.

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