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      Community is at the Heart of Our Innovation Districts

      Five part Q&A with Anna Strongman, CEO, Oxford University Developments

      21 Feb 2022 Anna Strongman, CEO, Oxford University Developments

      1. What is the mission and purpose of Oxford University Developments, and why is it important that universities are actively involved in the growth of the Oxford-Cambridge Arc?

      OUD is a joint venture between the University of Oxford and Legal & General, formed to provide exemplary development to support the future growth of the University, the city, university spinouts and enterprises and the world-class research and innovation that Oxford is known for globally.

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      OUD’s purpose is multifaceted, but it’s really about supporting the future position and outputs of the University, be that in science and technology, engineering, humanities and the arts, which are critically important to the innovation districts within Oxford itself.

      2. One of OUD’s projects is the development of the Innovation District at Begbroke Science Park. What should sustainable development look like, and how do we simultaneously plan for students, staff, and the world-class innovation taking place within Oxford?

      Begbroke is a microcosm of aims and ambitions of both the University of Oxford and L&G. Begbroke will be a place which supports world-leading research and the community which generates that, but also a place where staff, students, entrepreneurs and innovators grow and develop; where their children will go to school, meet friends, and call home.

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      3. Are we doing enough to attract the world’s best researchers and student talent?

      The quality of research and academic endeavour at Oxford attracts people from around the globe to be part of its research community, so there is a big pull to this part of the world.

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      4. Does new development undermine the character of ancient cities like Oxford and Cambridge?

      Cities that have lasted the test of time have responded to trends and challenges. The University of Oxford’s opening up in the 19th century and the professionalisation of teaching and research is what made the university a powerhouse, developing suburbs to support this mission.

      Of course, we have to be sensitive to heritage and environmental considerations, but if development is done sympathetically, it can be part of that future. It’d be good to see more pushing of the boundaries of architecture, too. Growth is necessary to respond to the biggest challenges we face worldwide: health, poverty, climate, social inequalities – a lot of these can be addressed by the research coming out of the University.

      5. What are the challenges involved in masterplanning, and how can we ‘future-proof’ the places that we create?

      There needs to be regulatory frameworks to encourage the right outcomes. That’s not straight forward, but good growth can be supported through standards of building design, building codes, quality, energy systems, and operational approaches to buildings.

      On infrastructure, there needs to be investment to create sustainable transport solutions, even for autonomous vehicles.

      Most of all, we need to set out a compelling vision and framework for the future whilst building in sufficient flexibility and nimbleness to respond to a rapidly evolving innovation ecosystem.

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