Britain is good at science, but rubbish at turning bright ideas into commercial reality. That has been our history since Oxford researchers had to travel to the USA to produce the first antibiotics in the Second World War.

But things should be different in future, if the example of Begbroke Science Park is anything to go by.

Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne chose to visit Begbroke earlier this year to announce Oxfordshire's City Deal, including a £67m boost towards four new innovation centres for science companies.

One will be at at Begbroke, joining an already flourishing science park on land around an old farmhouse, where research companies work alongside researchers employed by Oxford University, but funded by commercial sponsorship.

Tucked alongside Oxford Airport, the site was a weed research unit operated by the UK Government's Agricultural Research Centre from 1960-85, then labs for industrial conglomerate Cookson.

Only a few years after an expensive refit, it was closed in a restructuring and snapped up by Oxford University, its potential having been spotted by Professor Brian Cantor, of the materials science department. Since then it has doubled in size.

This month is the 15th anniversary of the university’s purchase, and some of Begbroke's 500 employees, working for 30 companies and 20 research groups, will celebrate with a display of their work.

Perhaps as impressive is the number of businesses which have left to expand elsewhere. They include Sigmavision, now at Middleton Stoney, chosen as a finalist for the 2014 Oxfordshire Business Awards for its innovative technology for measuring tyre tread.

Other success stories include Oxford Nanopore, now at Oxford Science Park; MSolve, at Kidlington; and forensic researcher Contact Traces, at Milton Park.

Manager Caroline Livingstone said: “We feed the county's other business parks and that's exacly what should be happening. We do not consider ourselves to be competing with anybody else because we think we are doing a unique job. We help technology grow in a way which is different to what goes on elsewhere.”

She believes Begbroke's uniqueness lies in the way it unites university researchers and those working for start-up companies, and in the way scientists and engineers from different academic disciplines can interact.

Barbara Allsworth, who runs the Centre for Innovation and Enterprise — Begbroke's space for start-up businesses — said: "We are very different from a university research campus, but this is totally integrated with the university.”

City Deal funding remains opaque, but Dr Livingstone said £4.2m would help fund a new £11.2m ‘accelerator’ building at Begbroke, allowing start-up companies to grow without leaving the site.

One expanding company is WheelRight, developing a ramp measuring vehicles’ tyre pressure. Chief executive John Catling said: "We were one of the first tenants at Begbroke and commercialisation has taken longer than we anticipated."

Eight years later, he says the company is on the verge of commercial success, with its system installed at Thamesdown bus depot in Swindon and Stagecoach in Rugby.

"We are in discussion about putting a unit into the US. We have to prove that we have a robust system and we have done that.

“Now it is a case of putting the service into the wider market.

“There are five billion tyres on earth. We know that people are not looking after their tyres. Putting a gauge on is a dirty chore and if you are the fleet manager of a bus garage you have thousands of tyres, with all the safety issues that implies, and the extra fuel cost. You only have to drive on a motorway to see the number of tyres left in shreds.”

Begbroke has been a perfect home, he said. "We would like to stay, but if we grow, we might not have the space.”

Oxford Gene Technology has solved its space problem by setting up a manufacturing centre nearby at Yarnton, and now employs 70 staff, having been founded in the 1990s by Oxford University professor Ed Southern, inventor of the 'DNA chip'.

Chief executive Mike Evans said: “It is a bit like silicon chip manufacturing. The chip is made by another company and we add labelling kits. When our customers collect DNA samples they label them with fluorescent dye and study them in a fluorescent scanner.”

OGT is now profitable, with revenue from its research customers, and recently bought Cambridge-based Cytocell, originally an Oxford spin-out company.

Also expanding is Microbial Solutions, which uses microbes to clean up toxic waste from the automoblie and aerospace industries.

Chief executive Will Pope said: “This waste is really toxic, 200 times worse than what goes down the wastepipe of your toilet, and it can be up to one million times more toxic.

"The material is deliberately made to be toxic to bugs, to make it more durable — but not to our bugs.

“Because we have bugs doing the work, rather than expensive process engineering, we don't have to put a lot of energy in.”

Microbial Solutions has demonstrator plants with British Aerospace and Ford, and is currently raising venture capital to fund a larger 120,000 litre plant.

If all goes to plan, employee numbers will rise from the current 12 to 25 in a couple of years, he said.

“We are looking for some grow-on space and we would like to stay. Begbroke is an ideal site for us.”

Contact: 01865 283700