Sister Charities

The Oxford Trust, Earth Trust and the Sylva Foundation share a common history as they were all set up and funded by the late Sir Martin Wood and Lady Audrey Wood. Each charity has a distinctive vocation and yet inherited their founders’ passions – science, environment and people – and vision.

The Oxford Trust Logo
Earth Trust Logo
Sylva Foundation Logo

Our History

As an enterprising engineer, Martin started Oxford Instruments with Audrey, developing and marketing the world’s first superconducting magnets. These were soon in great demand for scientific equipment, notably in the development of MRI scanning technology. After floating Oxford Instruments on the stock market, Martin and Audrey became prolific philanthropists, supporting business start-ups, scientific innovation, young people and the natural environment.

After years of appreciating the challenges faced by nature and the environment, Martin and Audrey co-founded Earth Trust in 1982 (previously known as Northmoor Trust). From its earliest beginnings it has grown to be an advocate and demonstration of people connecting with the natural world. Earth Trust’s wildlife-rich green spaces include the iconic Wittenham Clumps and over 500ha of farmland, woodland and wetlands, welcoming thousands of visitors each year.

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 1985, they set up The Oxford Trust to do just that. 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. In 2006, the Trust set up Science Oxford to inspire young people about science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) and in 2019 opened the Science Oxford Centre and the adjoining Wood Centre for Innovation in Headington (see photo of Martin and Audrey opening the centres below). Through its education and public engagement programmes, the Trust now reaches over 46,000 students, teachers and families across Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire annually.

Sylva Foundation was co-founded by Martin with Dr Gabriel Hemery in 2009, aiming to nurture Britain’s wood culture. The charity combines many of the qualities of its sister charities, with a passion for the environment, business and education. One of its main projects, myForest, has bought technical innovation to the forestry sector, where the online platform supports more than 10,000 landowners and managers in caring for 200,000ha of woodland across Britain. Sylva also runs the Wood Centre in Long Wittenham, supporting the use of home-grown timber by fostering woodworking businesses and delivering training through the Sylva Wood School..

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