Our History

Every great story starts with a great idea and the story of The Oxford Trust is no exception. It was founded in 1985 by entrepreneurs Sir Martin and Lady Audrey Wood to encourage the pursuit of science and enterprise in our region. And, as you will read, the work of the Trust has helped to build and shape the successful innovation ecosystem we see in Oxfordshire today, as well as developing and delivering ground-breaking programmes of science engagement for schools and the general public through Science Oxford.

This year Martin and Audrey celebrate their 90th birthdays and we are celebrating all that they have achieved. Explore our timeline here to learn more about the Woods, the work of the Trust and the impact we’ve had across Oxfordshire and beyond.

The Oxford Trust Timeline

 

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1985

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1985

Martin and Audrey Wood set up The Oxford Trust to encourage the pursuit of science and enterprise. Over the last 30 plus years, the Trust has supported hundreds of science and tech start-up businesses and science education in over 300 schools right across Oxfordshire!

1986

The Trust buys an old builders yard in Osney Mead and sets up the Science and Technology Enterprises Project (or STEP). One of the original occupants of the STEP centre was John Boyle, who started Oxford Instruments. He is now the Chair of The Oxford Trust.

1987

The Trust launches the Schools-Industry Grant Scheme (SIG) to help school students develop innovative design and technology projects in partnership with local firms. This is the start of the Trust working with local businesses to encourage young people in STEM.

Read more about our Work With Us programme.

1987

The Trust launches Oxford Innovation Ltd to manage its non-charitable activities: running office space for science and tech businesses; consultancy for entrepreneurs; and management consultancy for innovation centres and science parks. It has now been running for 30 years.

Read more about Oxford Innovation

1990

The Trust opens its first science centre in Oxford called Curioxity, for school children and their families. The Trust is now developing a new science education centre for primary-aged children at Stansfeld Park, Oxford.

Read more about Stansfeld Park.

1992

With the support of the Trust, the first day-long Oxford Festival of Science and Technology takes place. The week-long Festival is now in its 25th year and attracts thousands to all kinds of science events all over Oxford.

Read more about our Oxfordshire Science Festival.

1993

Vision for Oxfordshire is launched by The Trust and Oxfordshire County Council: a partnership between industry, the universities, business parks and local authorities to establish Oxfordshire as a centre of excellence for science and tech. Now over 40,000 people are employed in knowledge-intensive businesses in Oxfordshire in science centres like Milton Park.

1994

The Trust sets up the innovative Oxford Investment Opportunity Network or OION – known as ‘Onion’ to bring investors and entrepreneurs together to support start-ups. OION kick-started investment in the region and is still operational today.

Find out more about OION

1995

The Trust sets up the Oxford Centre for Innovation – or OCFI – on Mill Street in Oxford. It is opened by Prince Charles the following year and is one of the first science and tech innovation centres in the UK.

Read more about our current Oxford Centre for Innovation.

1997

Bridget Holligan (near leftstarts as Educational Officer for the Trust. She is now Director of Education and Engagement and the Trust’s longest-serving member of staff.

Read more about Our Team.

1998

This year sees the launch of the first Oxfordshire Family Science Programme, co-ordinated by the Trust. This was the start of the Trust’s engagement programmes for adults and children, now delivered by Science Oxford.

Find out more about Science Oxford.

1998

With the support of The Oxford Trust – the first Venturefest Oxford is launched to bring together entrepreneurs and investors. It now attracts over 1000 attendees annually and next year will be its 20th anniversary!

Read more about Venturefest.

2005

This is the first year of the Enterprise Awards to celebrate innovation and entrepreneurship in the Oxford region. The awards are supported by the Trust and this year’s winners included Professor Sir Michael Brady, Oxbotica (see left), ZapGo and Travis Wentworth of Langu.

Read more about the Enterprise Awards.

2005

The Trust sets up Science Oxford to deliver their science education and engagement programmes. They now reach 330 schools, 20,000 pupils and over 40,000 people in total every year!

Find out more about Science Oxford.

2005

The Trust sets up ScienceOxford Live to deliver public science events. We now organise approximately 140 live science events a year that reach over 20,000 people.

Find out more about Science Oxford Live events.

2006

The Oxford Trust hosts the regional heats for the first Famelab UK competition. It’s an opportunity to find the most engaging science performers in the region and send them to do battle on the national stage. This year entrants were cheered on by over 300 people.

Read more about the Famelab UK competition.

2010

Science Oxford starts running the Big Science Event – a primary school’s competition to encourage creative science. Over 8000 now participate in these events every year.

Read more about the Big Science Event.

2011

The Trust opens a new incubator space for science and tech businesses on New Road, Oxford, called the Oxford Centre for Innovation or OCFI. It now supports over 40 start-up businesses every year and 260 entrepreneurs.

Read about the Oxford Centre for Innovation.

2013

The Trust and University of Oxford support the publication of the Oxfordshire Innovation Engine: Realising our Growth Potential report. This influential report was updated in 2016 and relaunched by George Freeman MP.

Download the Oxfordshire Innovation Engine report

2015

The Trust supports the start of the basement maker space at OCFI. The space is kitted out with high-tech laser cutters and 3D printers and professional technicians are available to help with prototyping. It attracts nearly 4000 inventors, makers and crafters every year.

Read more about The Basement.

2015

The Oxford Trust celebrates its 30th birthday and the impact it has had on science and innovation in Oxfordshire. A special anniversary edition of their newsletter, Scintilla, is published to recognise the work of the Trust.

2015

The Thinking, Doing, Talking Science project was set up with Oxford Brookes University to test our approach to primary science learning. The aim of the programme is to make science lessons in schools more practical, creative and challenging. Funded by the Education Endowment Fund, it involved over 200 schools.

Read more about Thinking, Doing, Talking Science

2016

The Trust opens The POD at OCFI, a co-working space in central Oxford to support start-up science and tech businesses. It can also be used as a science and tech meet-up space.

Read more about The POD.

2016

The Trust acquires Stansfeld Park in Headington, Oxford, to develop the Wood Centre for Innovation and the Science Oxford Education Centre. It is planned to open in winter 2018/19.

Read more about Stansfeld Park.

2017

This year sees the relaunch of STEM Horizons, our careers information website for school students. It aims to give an insight into careers and opportunities available in STEM industries in your local area.

Read more about STEM Horizons.

2017

The Trust launches their STEM World of Work programme – giving local science and tech businesses the opportunity to inspire young people about STEM careers and help with work experience and research placements.

Read more about our STEM World of Work.

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Partnership of sixty years

Martin and Audrey Wood met while they were students at Cambridge and were married in 1955. Martin was an engineer whose early passion had been mining. He had spent time as a Bevin boy in the Welsh coalmines and (briefly) became a management trainee in the British Coal Industry of the mid-1950s. Martin was fascinated by industry and his experience with the Coal Board made him question how the industrial experience could be improved.

Shortly after their marriage Audrey and Martin moved to Oxford where Martin began work as Senior Research Officer in the Clarendon Laboratory at the University. He was involved in designing and building some of the world’s first superconducting magnets, which were sought-after for use in a variety of scientific equipment.

The University’s first spin-out company

Realising the commercial potential of superconducting magnets, Martin and Audrey founded Oxford Instruments in 1959. The University’s first spin-out company was established in the Woods’ garden shed on Northmoor Road. Martin had the experience and expertise in science, engineering and innovation and Audrey finance, law, administration and marketing. Together, a dynamic combination of skills. It is a combination that made Oxford Instruments a huge commercial success.

Superconducting magnets became in high demand globally for MRI scanners and in 1983 the company floated on the stock market to enable them to fund operational expansion to meet that demand.

The sale of Oxford Instruments provided Martin and Audrey with a different kind of opportunity – an opportunity to give something back – to invest their passion and resources in to supporting the interests that were important to them. They transformed from business entrepreneurs to prodigious philanthropists.

Setting up the Trust

Their experience of creating and growing a spin-out company from scratch enabled Martin and Audrey to appreciate the challenges that faced fledgling companies trying to get started and find suitable premises in Oxford. In 1986, they bought a builders’ yard in Osney Mead and opened the Science and Technology Enterprise Project – or STEP centre – for tech start-ups. It was the first innovation centre in the region and a catalyst for Oxfordshire’s flourishing ecosystem of innovation incubators and science parks we see today. We now run the Oxford Centre for Innovation – OCFI – which provides flexible office and networking space for 40 science and tech start-ups. We also create and support projects that put science and enterprise at the heart our region, such as Science Oxford, Venturefest Oxford, the Oxfordshire Science Festival, the Enterprise Awards and much, much more.

Inspiring the next generation

Audrey had been a school governor and observed that too few students were opting to study science subjects and maths, put off by uninspired teaching and a lack of resources. She wanted young people to get switched on to science and to encourage them to consider careers in STEM. As a result, the Trust created an extensive schools programme which is still run today by our amazing Science Oxford schools team. Annually, our education programme reaches over 20,000 pupils in primary and secondary schools and supports 350 teachers through CPD training. Science Oxford also runs a vibrant programme of events, including interactive workshops, theatre shows, talks and science camps to inspire people of all ages about science and the world around them.

You can see all the Trust has achieved over the past thirty plus years here. Later this year, we will open a new chapter with the development of our new Science Oxford Centre and the adjoining Wood Centre for Innovation (named after our patrons) at Stansfeld Park, Oxford. This ambitious and exciting new development will enable us to engage more young people in science, inspire more teachers; and add capacity to Oxford’s dynamic innovation ecosystem. What a legacy!

You can download the Woods’ 90th celebration brochure here. And you can watch this short film to see the impact Martin and Audrey have had through the organisations they have founded and funded.

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