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8:40am Thursday 17th March 2011 in Innovation
It has long been recognised that while Oxford is a small city, it is one of global importance in many respects. Indeed, Oxfordshire as a whole is a hotbed of scientific innovation, whose status can be matched by very few places.
These days we boast world-leading centres of excellence in scientific industries as diverse as cryogenics, motorsport and computer games, not to mention the two universities, the Harwell Campus, or Culham Centre for Fusion Energy.
Science Oxford is independent of all these organisations. A charity, it was set up by Sir Martin and Lady Audrey Wood in the mid-1980s to promote the pursuit of science and enterprise in the county, something which they felt was under serious threat.
Twenty-five years later, many things have changed, but the key challenges remain the same: how can we create a society able to engage with science in an intelligent and worthwhile way, and so drive the economic growth on which our future prosperity depends?
These days, much of our work focuses on the activities we run in our venue at St Clement’s, Oxford, which have recently assumed even greater importance since we announced our plans for a world-leading science and innovation facility in the city centre.
But it is clear that if we only run activities at a single venue, we are not going to have the sort of impact our founders had in mind.
So we continue to run a number of initiatives in other sites around the county, each of which bridges the gap between science, enterprise and society.
One of these is the Nuffield Science Bursary Scheme, which we have managed in this region since the late 1990s.
Each summer, this scheme places 17-year-olds in scientific organisations where they undertake research projects lasting up to six weeks.
In Oxfordshire a significant proportion of those placements are with commercial organisations involved in scientific research, as well as the more obvious government-funded research institutes.
Another project along similar lines is the Science Oxford Apprentice, which pits students against each other in a series of business-themed challenges in the hope of winning a cash prize of £475, and a work placement at Oxford Computer Consultants.
Both these schemes illustrate the fact that much of the county’s scientific research has a strong entrepreneurial drive and commercial aspect.
They are complemented by the county’s biggest science showcase, the Oxfordshire Science Festival, which this year kicked off with a huge science fair, Science In Your World, in Bonn Square, Oxford last month.
This saw 15 of the county’s science organisations providing science-themed activities for several thousand people, in a free-to-enter venue right in the heart of the city.
It provided an excellent window into the real-life world of science in the county and its impact on everyday life, with the involvement of several commercial organisations, including Sharp Laboratories of Europe of the Oxford Science Park and Eynsham-based Siemens Magnet Technology.
The festival runs until March 20, and is one of the biggest — and fastest growing — events of its kind in the UK. Over the three weeks following the Bonn Square event, more than 20,000 people will take part in more than 115 events across the county.
There is something for everyone: children and families, school pupils and professors, lay people and experts. By bringing the real business of science into ordinary people’s lives, we aim for it to play its part in ensuring the county’s future growth and inspiring the scientists who will go on to shape our future.
Contact: Science Oxford, 01865 728953.
www.scienceoxford.com This page is co-ordinated by Oxford Innovation: www.oxin.co.uk