Professor Chas Bountra, Pro VC for Innovation


Professor Chas Bountra, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Innovation at Oxford, considers innovation at the University

Published: 15 June 2022

Author: Chas Bountra


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This wonderful university is home to many brilliant students, researchers and academics, and some truly remarkable leaders, innovators and entrepreneurs.

The University is now filing more patents and creating more spinouts than any other university in the UK. Nanopore, Evotec and Perspectum are going to transform healthcare, YASA is leading the electric vehicle revolution, and First Light Fusion is moving rapidly towards a sustainable energy solution. All these, and I could list many more, have much in common – they are the result of years of hard work by Oxford geniuses and they are all committed to making the University a national centre for innovation.

Our students are similarly determined to tackle some of the greatest challenges facing our planet – the progress made by start-ups Quantum Dice, Oxwash and Deep Planet is breathtaking.

Innovation is happening in every department, division and college. Colleagues in Humanities and Social Sciences are building major partnerships to drive policy development and the creation of new social enterprises – 11 so far, with 20 in the pipeline. SOPHIA, Oxford’s first social spin-out, based on the incredible work of Dr Sabina Alkire and her colleagues, is helping businesses all over the world to develop sustainable business practices.

This university is brilliant, because of all the people in it. Our impacts are accelerated and amplified because of all the other brilliant people and organisations we choose to work with - Peter Ireland’s work with Rolls-Royce on turbine cooling; Humanities working with the National Trust; the Jenner Institute and Oxford Vaccine Group working with AstraZeneca are all wonderful examples. We are now building more synergies with the large national infrastructures at Harwell and Culham.

Oxford Science Enterprises have transformed the Oxford ecosystem in the past seven years – in this year alone, they have invested £270m in our new companies, and helped attract a further £750m from other investors. They are helping Oxford academics translate their research, and thereby create impact stories for the University, and benefits for society. To meet the insatiable demand for innovation space, they are now building new labs in the centre of Oxford. St John’s College is complementing this with a million square foot development in North Oxford, and the University has similar goals in Begbroke and Osney.

We have initiated major cross university reviews on ‘innovation and commercialisation’ and ‘entrepreneurship training for our student body’. Our near-term ambition is to make Oxford the innovation hub of Europe. To achieve this it is clear that we must create more streamlined processes, attract more investors and diverse industries, and ensure greater financial benefits for the University. Many senior colleagues and external advisors are working hard to explore options and define recommendations.

No-one can be in doubt that this collegiate university is a magnet for talent and a research powerhouse. Now, because of our ambitions, our collaborative ethos, our global outlook and our deeply engaged alumni, I’m confident that we can be the most impactful university in the world.