Harwell Oxford has a well-established research and enterprise community and is a household name in many high-tech industries. Today’s vision for the campus as a modern centre for high-tech enterprise is built upon a 60-year tradition and a global reputation.
The campus has a long history of scientific innovation and entrepreneurship stretching back to its foundation as an airbase during World War II, when it was the test site for several military innovations. What used to be the main runway is now Fermi Avenue, one of the main arteries of the campus, and the spirit of innovation which started with bomber catapults and secret aircraft continues to flourish here.
Under the UK Atomic Energy Authority, the Harwell license site became the centre of the civil nuclear program, with over 6,000 people working here in the late 1950s. This program not only significantly furthered our understanding of nuclear power but also spawned a plethora of other technologies. Scientists from Harwell, for example, were asked to use their pioneering non-destructive testing technology to examine Big Ben for cracks in the 1970s, and continued to look after the bell for over a decade.
Some of the companies created by the UK Atomic Energy Authority’s research still operate from the campus today. For example Accentus Medical is the global leading supplier of gas plasma spray coatings to the orthopaedic industry, using technology which was initially developed as part of the civil nuclear program.
This long history of technology transfer, innovation and public-private partnership is at the heart of what the campus is today.