We went head-to-head with Sarah Haywood, Advanced Oxford’s new MD

If you were looking to find someone to lead a new organisation with a vision to be the business voice for the leading knowledge-based companies in the Oxford region, you would need look no further than Sarah Haywood. Sarah was responsible for setting up MedCity –founded in 2014 to promote and grow the world-leading life sciences cluster in the south-east of England.  She took it from an idea to a fully-fledged and credible organisation in just five years. “When I joined MedCity it was simply an idea, not an organisation,” she says, adding “And now MedCity is at the heart of positioning the greater south-east as a world-leading interconnected region for life sciences research, development, manufacturing and commercialisation.”

Similar to Med, Advanced Oxford wants to be the united voice of the high-tech industry in the Oxford region and to make sure that voice is known, respected and listened to in the corridors of power. However, Advanced Oxford will be research-led and develop evidence that is valued by policymakers, informs and supports the policy development process and – ultimately – benefits local people and communities.

Sarah has great plans for Advanced Oxford and how it will develop, but her first task is to meet its members to ensure they are fully behind the organisation and its vision. Next up, is to publish the findings of Advanced Oxford’s first piece of research – the Quality of Life Survey – which looks at the factors that impact on the quality of life of employees and owners of knowledge-intensive (KI) businesses in the Oxford region. She hopes this will give Advanced Oxford a voice on a key topic. Sarah says, “I would also like to ensure that Advanced Oxford is a key contributor to the ongoing Local Industrial Strategy and Oxford Strategic Economic Plan (or SEP), which will provide an ambitious long-term framework for economic growth for the area from now to 2040. The aim is to position Oxfordshire as one of the top three global innovation ecosystems in the World(?).”

Our region’s innovation ecosystem really is one to shout about. There’s the research strengths of our academic institutions, the leading-edge companies located here, the  plethora of science campuses and science parks, and the strength of the region’s research and knowledge exchange capability. If that isn’t enough, the county is one of a handful of regions in the UK that is as a net contributor to the Treasury.

Sarah hopes that “Advanced Oxford will be an important player in that ecosystem. In five years’ time, I’d like AO to be a well-known, respected organisation with a thriving and engaged membership. It would be seen as a thought leader and fully engaged in policy making, locally and nationally. “

As Sarah has been working one day a week from April, she has had the chance to meet some AO members already and arrived on the 1stJuly with a “to do” list. We can only assume this will get longer! We wish Sarah the best of luck in her new role.

Thanks to The Oxford Trust, Sarah will be based at our Wood Centre for Innovation at Stansfeld Park in Headington. She works Monday to Wednesday and can be contacted at [email protected]