Who is leading the race into space, discovering life-changing medicine or developing new technology for driverless vehicles? Find out and be inspired by this top 10 guide to the most ambitious start-ups, global leaders and award-winning companies based in the life science, space and medical innovation hubs at Science Vale.
Open Cosmos Ltd.
As more companies consider low orbit earth space missions to collect telecoms data, fly optical satellites or test new science, Open Cosmos, on Harwell Campus, has established itself as a one-stop shop to make it happen. Tailoring spacecraft designs to meet customer’s specific payloads, Open Cosmos’ innovative kit is also making it quicker, more achievable and driving down costs. They also deal with all the pre-mission requirements to enable customers to fully focus on getting the most out of their in-orbit data.
This year the European Space Agency chose Open Cosmos to become their first Space Mission Provider, launching the first nano satellite from the International Space Station in March.
Based at Milton Park, Oxitec uses specialist gene editing to reduce the population of invasive and disease-carrying insects, such as the troublesome diamondback moth devastating the world’s brassica crops and mosquitoes that spread the world’s deadliest air-borne viruses, such as Zika and Yellow Fever.
Their solution is a short-lived male mosquito that mates with human-biting wild female mosquitoes. It passes on a damaged gene causing their offspring to die before maturity. Trials have already shown a 90% reduction in local mosquito populations in Brazil, Cayman Islands and Panama with little effect on other wildlife. Oxitec recently announced plans to build a state-of-the-art mosquito egg production facility in Science Vale to research against future strains.
Reaction Engines Ltd.
Pushing science towards a future of space planes and hypersonic vehicles, Reaction Engines is developing SABRE – the Synergetic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine. In partnership with BAE systems, they have been working to integrate rocket, gas turbine and ramjet hardware with a unique heat exchanger technology. This work will also bring potential benefits to motorsports, industrial processes, oil and gas sectors.
Based at Culham Science Centre, Reaction Engines recently signed up to work with the European Space Agency, the UK Space Agency and BAE Systems to deliver the world’s first SABRE ground demonstrator engine by 2020.
With plans already underway to build a new purpose-built research laboratory at Milton Park, Immunocore is focussing on ways to use targeted immune-activating T cell receptor based drugs to improve the treatment of cancer, infectious diseases and autoimmune diseases. It was identified this year as one of just three European Biotech Unicorn companies.
Working in collaboration with GlaxoSmithKline, Immunocore runs trials to identify the trigger molecules in cancers and recently discovered the one that relates to breast cancer, oesophageal, gastric and ovarian cancers. The company won the Private UK Life Science Company of the Year award at the 2016 Biotech and Money Assembly and Awards plus UK Life Science CEO of the Year for CEO Eliot Forster.
Oxford Space Systems Ltd.
Named by Business & Innovation magazine as one of the Top 60 Innovative Companies in the UK and chosen for the Euroconsult Finspace award as one of five most promising start-ups of 2017, Oxford Space Systems’ range of innovative deployable antennae and structures are causing a stir in the race to space. They have achieved two industry records already with the successful deployment of their AstroTube™ boom: from concept to orbit in under 30 months with the world’s longest retractable CubeSat boom, for which they won the Commended Innovation Award from the Institute of Physics in October.
Managing Director, Mike Lawton recently won the Barclays Entrepreneur Award 2017 for best start-up and their business model and innovation has also attracted funding from Innovate UK, the European and UK Space Agencies.
Oxford Immunotec PLC.
Singled out by the London Stock Exchange as one of the UK’s most exciting and dynamic small and medium-sized enterprises, Oxford Immunotec specialises in developing tests for screening infectious diseases that debilitate the immune system, such as tuberculosis and Lyme disease. Based at Milton Park, they are currently developing product lines to screen for Babesia in donated blood and another for the transplantation market.
In 2014, Oxford Immunotec was awarded the Queen’s Award for Enterprise for innovation, international trade and sustainability.
Oxis Energy Ltd.
Based at Culham, Oxis Energy is a global leader in developing lightweight lithium-sulfur cells for battery systems, which can withstand low temperatures and different pressurised environments safely. This led to collaborating with NASA to test their cells in drones and high altitude aircraft and form a consortium with Steatite, MSubs and the National Oceanography Centre. They developed a pressure tolerant battery that successfully powered a remotely operated underwater vehicle at depths of more than 6,000 metres.
Recently Oxis Energy established the first international lithium sulfur battery system test centre at Culham Science Centre. They received the ‘Innovation Leading to Business Transformation’ award from Innovate UK in 2015.
Tokamak Energy Ltd.
With their specialist compact, spherical generators, Tokamak Energy is racing to become the first to create compact nuclear fusion power. Their next step is to reach plasma temperatures of 100 million degrees, demonstrate fusion conditions within three years and show the commercial viability of fusion power by 2025.
Based at Milton Park, Tokamak Energy run tests at the specialist Culham Science Centre, the world’s leading centre for magnetic fusion energy research. It recently announced a new partnership with Atkins to design the first nuclear fusion power plant to generate more energy than it consumes.
Oxbotica specialises in creating software systems and artificial intelligence for the next generation of driverless vehicles. It also leads the consortium behind the ambitious DRIVEN project to trial fully autonomous vehicles in urban areas and motorways. The consortium was awarded a £12.6 million grant from Innovate UK to stimulate new technologies and keep the UK at the forefront of electric vehicle (EV) innovation.
Using RACE’s Autonomous Vehicle test facility at Culham Science Centre, Oxbotica has been testing how well the vehicles tackle key manoeuvres such as roundabouts, traffic junctions and interactions with pedestrians, cyclists and other vehicles to assess their safety and minimise any risks. Oxbotica were awarded the Financial Times ArcelorMittal Boldness in Business Award in March and the Barclays Award for Innovation in July 2017.
Meeting the growing demands for EV batteries that charge faster, more cheaply and safely than lithium-ion, British start-up Zap&Go, on Harwell Campus, has successfully developed a carbon-ion alternative. As featured on the BBC Click programme, this carbon-ion super capacitor has already proven its superfast charging times for power tools. Zap&Go hopes their battery system will open the door to new partnerships and EV applications as it puts its carbon-ion battery into production during 2018.