Russian oil tycoon Roman Abramovich has ploughed a small portion of his fortune into a pioneering Oxfordshire firm.

Through his investment business Ervington Investments, the billionaire owner of Chelsea Football Club has bought £4.3m worth of shares in Oxford Catalysts as part of a £30.6m share placing by the company which specialises in alternative fuels.

That gives him a 3.5 per cent stake in the firm based at Milton Park, near Didcot, which span out of Oxford University in 2004 headed by Professor Malcolm Green, one of the world's most respected inorganic chemists.

Spokesman Jonathan Charles said: “Mr Abramovic has made several investments in new energy companies.

“The money will be used for research and development as it is looking towards full commercialisation of its technology later this year.”

Oxford Catalysts listed on the London Stock Exchange’s Alternative Investment Market in April 2006 and last month it revealed that a share issue had been oversubscribed.

A statement said there had been “significant support from existing shareholders, several major new institutional investors and a new strategic investor.”

Trading in the new shares began yesterday.

One of Oxford Catalysts’ key areas is technology to turn gas which is often burnt off as a by-product of oil production into a liquid fuel that can be used in vehicles.

The business employs about 25 staff in Milton Park, with up to 50 more in the United States.

Roy Lipski, chief executive of Oxford Catalysts said: "I am delighted with the confidence shown by investors, both existing and new, in Oxford Catalysts’ technology and potential.

“These funds will allow us to accelerate forward, consolidating our market lead and driving commercial roll out of our technology.”