Oxford was shortlisted for the European Capital of Innovation Award, competing against cities such as Paris and Berlin for the prize set up by the European Commission “to acknowledge the role of cities as places of systemic innovation, with a capacity to connect people, places, public and private actors.”

At the prize-giving ceremony on April 8, Amsterdam took the €950,000 top prize and pride for being the European Capital of Innovation 2016, with Paris coming second and Turin third. Oxford could console itself with being praised for “its vision to openly share the wealth of knowledge within its world-class innovation ecosystem” despite being the smallest of the nine cities shortlisted from an initial field of 36.

Oxford’s bid to be this year’s European Capital of Innovation was staged by a board comprising a diverse range of organisations. These included the city’s two universities, Oxford City and Oxfordshire County Council, the Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership and Venturefest Oxford. The Oxford Hub and the Low Carbon Hub also participated.

“Innovation is a key priority for the University of Oxford,” Oxford pro-vice Chancellor for research Professor Ian Walmsley said in the university’s release on the matter, “from the creation of spinout companies based on our cutting-edge research to collaborations with business and industry that have a real impact on people’s lives.

“Oxford has a complex and thriving innovation ecosystem where technologies and people converge to develop new, innovative solutions to global challenges,” Professor Ian Walmsley adds. “The University of Oxford plays an important part in this, alongside other local institutions, researchers, entrepreneurs, investors and citizens. Oxford’s shortlisting in this year’s iCapital competition will undoubtedly strengthen these partnerships across the city.”

Lynn Shepherd, vice-chair of Venturefest Oxford stated “although Oxford was the smallest city on the shortlist we certainly punched above our weight.  The breadth of innovation across the City was particularly impressive.

“Venturefest Oxford was asked to participate in the bid because of its position as the premier networking platform for entrepreneurs and small businesses in the high tech sector. Oxford has a rich heritage of entrepreneurism starting with Oxford Instruments in 1959 (development of the first MRI) and latterly Oxitech (currently involved with tackling the Zika virus).  Innovative thinking is part of brand Oxford and a vital thread in the growth and economic prosperity of the county.  Venturefest is very proud to be part of this vibrant innovation eco-system and I was pleased that this position was acknowledged in the bid.” According to Lynn Shepherd, the future looks encouraging as “even though we were unsuccessful this time, it has given us a blueprint on how to move forward more collaboratively. Oxford will re-bid in 2018 and this gives us a great foundation to improve on the bid.”

Dr Caroline Bucklow from the University of Oxford’s Knowledge Exchange and Impact Team told Cherwell, “the University is becoming a lot more embedded in a whole range of innovation support networks and collaborating a lot more with Oxford Brookes, supplementing each other’s strengths.

“For instance, the two universities have a partnership to coordinate activity where university research strength can help support industry in Oxford.” Similarly to Venturefest Oxford’s vice-chair, Dr Caroline Bucklow was optimistic, saying “one of the things which grew out of getting the nomination was that it allowed us to have a look at what’s going on in Oxford and brings together all the information in one place – it will now be much easy for people to get an idea of the whole innovation network. A future bid for the European Capital of Innovation will be easier and people are already working on a bid for the Smart Cities Expo.”