Firms need city to become more like USA, say bosses

Peter Wrighton-Smith

Peter Wrighton-Smith

First published in News Herald Series: Photograph of the Author by , Business Editor. Call me on 01865 425460

OXFORDSHIRE’s gro-wth as a centre for high-tech industry could be stunted by poor infrastructure and a limited labour pool.

That is the view of top entrepreneurs who claim it is easier to do business in the United States, where there is better resources.

Peter Wrighton-Smith, founder of Abingdon-based biotech firm Oxford Immunotec, said: “Being in Oxford was helpful in the early days. The city has many services to support start-ups. But later on it became less important for us to be here. In fact, we have found it easier to grow our business in the US than in the UK.

“The cost of living in Oxford and the limited labour pool in the area has sometimes made it difficult to hire enough staff. And there is a pressing need to improve the county’s transport infrastructure and build more housing.

“This will help to create a much broader labour pool for rapidly growing businesses like ours to tap into.”

Mr Wrighton-Smith was backed by Ian Crosbie, senior vice president of corporate development at Oxford-based Circassia, which specialises in allergy treatments including those for cats and grass.

He added: “There’s a human side to this problem. If a life sciences employee moves from California to Boston for a job and the company folds two years later, they can walk down the road and pick up another job in the same sector.

“If you move from the US to Oxford and the job or the company disappears, there isn’t a big enough sector for you to easily find more work. It’s too risky for many to move here.

“We need a bigger group of potential employers in the city and we need to see some success from recent Government initiatives to really help boost the Oxfordshire area.”

Mr Wrighton-Smith and Mr Crosbie recently participated in an entrepreneurs debate hosted by David Mott, managing partner at investment firm Oxford Capital.

He said: “A new generation of entrepreneurs has emerged in the Oxford cluster and created value in excess of £1bn in recent months.

“This success demonstrates the powerhouse that the Oxford technology cluster has become, bringing together technological excellence, entrepreneurial flair and venture backing in one concentrated area.

“But it is clear it needs to do more to support fast growth business by investing in its infrastructure if it is to continue to build on this success.”

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Comments (2)

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4:21pm Thu 17 Jul 14

snert says...

How about promoting home working. Why do I need to go to an office to do work that I can do remotely? It's short sighted to decide you need an office to put employees into when you could have an office in a more "prestigious" area that is smaller, cheaper to run and maintain, yet still have a reasonably large workforce as they work from home.

This also obviates the need for bringing people to the area as the location is largely unimpotant to a home worker. Still in Britain, there is this major uneasiness about allowing people to work from home thinking they will just sit around watching TV. If your workers were managed correctly they would probably work harder and do a few extra hours.

The cost of commuting in this country is extortionate when you factor in petrol or train fares and with our substandard infrastructure for the volume of traffic, home working seems the obvious choice.

It is feasible to start up a company and have no office at all. Good broadband (a joke in some areas of the country, I know), IP phones, video conference software, smartphones, etc., is all you need. Should you need a meting room, there are plenty of short term rentable meeting rooms. Most Travel Lodges have them and they aren't expensive compared to business space rent and costs.
How about promoting home working. Why do I need to go to an office to do work that I can do remotely? It's short sighted to decide you need an office to put employees into when you could have an office in a more "prestigious" area that is smaller, cheaper to run and maintain, yet still have a reasonably large workforce as they work from home. This also obviates the need for bringing people to the area as the location is largely unimpotant to a home worker. Still in Britain, there is this major uneasiness about allowing people to work from home thinking they will just sit around watching TV. If your workers were managed correctly they would probably work harder and do a few extra hours. The cost of commuting in this country is extortionate when you factor in petrol or train fares and with our substandard infrastructure for the volume of traffic, home working seems the obvious choice. It is feasible to start up a company and have no office at all. Good broadband (a joke in some areas of the country, I know), IP phones, video conference software, smartphones, etc., is all you need. Should you need a meting room, there are plenty of short term rentable meeting rooms. Most Travel Lodges have them and they aren't expensive compared to business space rent and costs. snert
  • Score: 4

6:11pm Thu 17 Jul 14

Patrick, Devon says...

I used to work in a science laboratry in Oxford. It was essential to be close by, as I often had to attend to experiments and equipment at odd hours and at weekends. Then there is the teamwork element, which does not work if you rarely meet colleagues.

If Oxford is to develelop as a world class centre for science and technology it needs accessible housing and a modern transport network.
I used to work in a science laboratry in Oxford. It was essential to be close by, as I often had to attend to experiments and equipment at odd hours and at weekends. Then there is the teamwork element, which does not work if you rarely meet colleagues. If Oxford is to develelop as a world class centre for science and technology it needs accessible housing and a modern transport network. Patrick, Devon
  • Score: 2

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