“We wanted to build an area where small businesses could start and thrive, somewhere with short-term, flexible lets – ‘easy in, easy out’,” says Dipple, managing director of Oxford’s Milton Park and director of property development firm MEPC. “Licenses range from one month to a year. We want to attract the kind of high-quality, innovative startups that will grow into the really big companies.”
Milton Park already houses 170 science and technology firms, ranging from a liquid repellent nano-coating specialist to a silicon-wafer processor. Many of the companies in the area are spin-outs from nearby Oxford University.
Dipple believes the innovation centre will “complete the offering” on the park. Construction kicked off in 2007 and the 27,000 sq ft centre opened its doors at the end of 2008. To mark its one-year anniversary last month, science minister Lord Drayson paid the premises a visit. “He started up vaccine manufacturer PowderJect company in the last major recession and sold it to Chiron for £550m in 2003. He’s keen to encourage the next generation of entrepreneurs.”
The innovation centre has already attracted 32 startups, including a micro-optical device manufacturer and a company that designs storage systems for the pharmaceutical industry. “We have space for double that,” comments Dipple.
Oxford Innovation supports the innovation centre, providing assistance with fundraising through business angel investment networks and mentoring.
MEPC has obtained planning permission for another 500,00 sq ft office and laboratory on the site, plus a hotel and conference centre. “More than 6,000 employees work on Milton Park,” says Dipple. “The companies attract a lot of international visitors so a hotel makes sense. We’ll be investing £100m in the project and we’ll be looking to start construction in 2011.”
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