The head of Oxford Instruments, Jonathan Flint, was interviewed on last Friday’s edition of the BBC Today programme, regarding the subject of commercial spin-offs from academia. We recommend you listen to the full interview here; it’s just a few minutes long.
Oxford Instruments is a successful spin-off company from Oxford University producing high-level nanotechnology tools, and is also an organisational member and supporter of CaSE.
Asked about their current business markets, Mr Flint said that an increasing number were to be found in Asia, particularly China (which had seen a 70% increase in sales last year), and that only 5% of turnover was based in the UK. This inbalance, he explained, was due to huge investment on the part of Asian governments in next-generation manufacturing and academic excellence over the last few years.
The numbers of ex-patriot Chinese professionals returning to work in their home country was therefore increasing. Speaking about the UK government’s non-EU migrant cap, Mr Flint expressed concern that restrictions on foreign student numbers would keep the very best scientists and engineers from coming to the UK, although he welcomed changes to the points-based immigration system giving PhD students a higher rating.
Looking to the future, Mr Flint placed great emphasis on the need for the UK to produce and fund high-tech graduates, to ensure the country’s competitiveness in the global economy.
CaSE echoes Mr Flint’s views and has previously called on the government to invest in science and engineering skills to drive growth over the long-term.