Oxford to Cambridge Arc: a global asset and national investment priority

The Oxford to Cambridge Arc, which the Chancellor of the Exchequer described as a “key economic priority”, has unveiled its bold vision in a prospectus that has been submitted to Government.

Published: Monday, 5th October 2020

The Arc’s ambition is to unlock the potential of its assets to create a world-leading innovation economy.

The Arc is already home to nearly four million people and two million jobs which together generate over £111bn of economic output each year. Based upon determined leadership and new financial backing, forecasts show that increased productivity resulting from intensifying the Arc’s global strengths in science, technology and high value manufacturing, could double the area’s economic output to over £200bn by 2050.

Cllr Barry Wood, Chair of the Arc Leaders Group and Leader of Cherwell District Council, said: “The Arc region has a critical mass of research, high-technology expertise and innovation assets found nowhere else in the UK. Yet we are at a pivotal time, during which our nation’s economic resilience is being tested far beyond anything we’ve seen before. Working with Government we can release the potential of the Arc’s key sectors, scientific community and entrepreneurial spirit to propel our country’s response to the major national and global challenges we face.”

The prospectus asks for commitment from Government to long term investment in the area, enabling the Arc to fulfil its true potential to deliver transformational economic growth that will benefit the whole of the UK. That investment will be crucial to tackle connectivity and congestion constraints and to provide the skills that industry requires to enable the Arc to pursue its role as a leading global innovation region.

Jeremy Long, Chair of the Arc Local Enterprise Partnerships Group and Chair of OxLEP, said: “Our vision is for the Arc to be a global hub for innovation, and home to exemplary models of green development that will inspire communities around the world. The Arc’s place is at the forefront of the UK’s green recovery and this will be made possible through bold leadership that focuses on the big opportunities. The Arc’s world-leading innovation across multiple sectors can deliver prosperity for the UK. We now need the commitment from Government and international investors to make the ambition a reality.”

The Arc will pursue innovation-led growth to help solve major, urgent environmental, health and social challenges, and at the same time, drive UK competitiveness and local prosperity. The Arc’s vision specifically sets out a plan to make the UK a world-leader in new technology and industries in zero-carbon aviation, space, life sciences, future mobility and energy.

Professor Sir Peter Gregson, Chair of the Arc Universities Group, said: “With investment, we can better connect and realise the potential of our world-class assets and the know-how created by our area’s people, businesses and institutions. We aim to be a testbed for new ways of living and working including by demonstrating net zero carbon and environmental net gain are achievable and economically beneficial. This connection will unlock the potential across our sector strengths to propel the Arc and the UK into an era of global growth at the vanguard of innovation.”

Cllr Susan Brown, Leader of Oxford City Council, said: ''The cities of Oxford, Cambridge and Milton Keynes are all dynamic drivers of growth within the Arc and are known around the globe. They have a key role to play in its success. We want to make sure that Oxford plays its part in the economic recovery. We have the expertise, the innovation and the research and we must ensure that our residents are able to benefit from the huge economic opportunities to be gained from working with our local authority and other partners across the geography of the ARC.

“The economic prospectus sets out the huge concentration of economic assets across the ARC and makes a compelling case for investment. We believe that the ARC is leading the way in innovation that can support clean and inclusive growth.

“Many of our aspirations are long term, but there are some critical infrastructure investments that are urgent if we are to make full use of the potential of Oxford and other areas. For Oxfordshire and beyond, this includes confirmation of investment in Oxford City station, to increase capacity in support of east-west rail, and to open up economic development opportunities in several surrounding market towns. It will also allow development sites that will support the opportunity for all areas to level up and to ensure no communities are left behind. We need to deliver more homes to meet local demand, and help ensure that our economic growth is greener and that Oxford continues to be a dynamic place with an excellent quality of life.”

Cllr Ian Hudspeth, Leader of Oxfordshire County Council, said: “This is a very significant moment. The development of the Oxford to Cambridge Arc is a real key to unlocking economic growth that will bring jobs and prosperity to all of the people who live in the areas around and between these two famous university cities. That would be important at any time but as we emerge and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic it will be particularly crucial. I look forward to seeing these plans come to life in future months and years along with the associated benefits for our towns, cities, villages and rural areas.”

Cllr Sue Cooper, Leader of South Oxfordshire District Council, said: “The work taking place now and in the future across the Arc region will have an impact on our lives, whether that’s through transforming how we live and work, by providing us with the means with which to tackle the climate emergency, or by helping us to come up with innovative solutions to address issues such as social inequality. I would encourage people to take a look at the prospectus to find out what it means, not only for those of us living and working here but also in terms of our future nationally and globally.”  

Cllr Emily Smith, Leader of Vale of White Horse District Council, said: “The world leading research and development work that takes place in Oxfordshire and across that Arc region every day will play vital role in our future, from how we address the climate emergency to ensuring that we can respond quickly and effectively to situations such as Covid-19. Local leaders are now asking government for support to provide physical and social infrastructure and to support our world leading businesses and research in a way that ensures everyone living between Science Vale and the Cambridge Science park benefits - whether that is from skills of employment opportunities, quality housing, or the acceleration of sustainable transport.”

Cllr James Mills, Leader of West Oxfordshire District Council, said: “The Arc represents an opportunity for our children and future generations to be able to have meaningful, high value jobs and still be able to live in their local communities.

“There is so much potential and if that is supported properly, then it will change lives, power the UK economy and make us a genuinely global centre for science, technology and innovation.”

Culham Science Centre-based Reaction Engines is one of thousands of innovative Oxfordshire companies that is set to take advantage of the new infrastructure, connectivity, and investment in the Arc. The growing company employs over 200 people who are developing new engines to make space and hypersonic travel more efficient, as well as commercialising thermal management technologies and improving the performance of electric vehicle batteries.

Mark Thomas, CEO of Reaction Engines, said: “We benefit greatly from our location and already collaborate with a number of suppliers and partners across the region and also undertake validation testing and share ideas with the UK Aviation Innovation and Technology Entrepreneurship cluster at Cranfield University. By coming together as an Arc we gain a more powerful voice, both with government and with international investors, and it gives us all the opportunity to bring revolutionary green technologies and their supporting supply chains to worldwide attention.”