COVID-19: OXFO accelerates innovative solutions

Press release: Oxford Foundry, entrepreneurship centre at Oxford, accelerates innovative solutions

The Oxford Foundry (OXFO) has today launched a two-part action plan to accelerate entrepreneurial solutions to the problems caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and to increase resilience and opportunity as we move forward into the post-pandemic era.

The Foundry team has convened a global taskforce of more than 60 leading entrepreneurs, policy-makers, investors, business leaders, and philanthropists. These include Foundry board members, advisors and supporters:

  • Mohamed Amersi, founder of the Amersi Foundation
  • Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter
  • Reid Hoffman CBE, internet entrepreneur and venture capitalist
  • Alexsis de Raadt St James, founder and managing partner of Merian Ventures, board member of the Fulbright US-UK Foundation
  • Honorary advisor Arlan Hamilton, founder of Backstage Capital
  • Angela Ahrendts DBE, former CEO of Burberry and SVP retail at Apple
  • Arunma Oteh, former vice president and treasurer at the World Bank

The Foundry is leveraging the University’s extensive faculty, alumni and student networks, which provide support as mentors and champions. Since it was opened by Saïd Business School two years ago, the Foundry has accelerated 32 start-ups, with 13 of these actively engaging in the fight against COVID-19. The ventures include a GP-to-patient remote platform that has scaled in three weeks to help hundreds of thousands of patients, fever detection cameras, sensors to monitor NHS hospital bed availability, a communication platform for care home residents and families to keep in touch, and a remote tutoring app for students.

The first part of the Foundry’s action plan is to dramatically scale-up support and access to networks and grant funding for these 13 start-ups. Through the generosity of the Foundry’s network of entrepreneurs and business leaders, the Foundry provides the crucial runway and resources needed to achieve the maximum impact, as rapidly as possible.

The second part is the OXFO COVID-19 Rapid Solutions Builder, an initiative designed to find and scale up innovative solutions to challenges that will arise from the pandemic in the foreseeable future.

The Rapid Solutions Builder is opening the call to all Oxford students and alumni who have innovative solutions within four critical areas: Healthcare, Education, Inclusive Social Engagement and Mobility, and Operations, Logistics and Supply Chains. The four most viable solutions will be put onto a newly created two-month intensive programme, where they will be supported by a curriculum of masterclasses, a network of mentors, and public and private sector partners to provide critical operational, technical and infrastructural support.

Critically, the Foundry will also be making the call out to students and alumni to contribute time and expertise to proposed solutions and ventures. This will be done through partnerships with student societies such as Oxford AI Society, Engineers without Borders Oxford (EWBOx), and Oxford Biotech Society. The provision of grant funding will aid the vital growth and development of these solutions.

Participants will be further guided by industry experts who will ensure that their solutions are developed for integration into wider national and global systems with rapid implementation, including:

  • Colum Conway, Chief Executive of Social Work England
  • Dr June Raine, Interim Chief Executive of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency
  • Evan Sharp, co-founder of Pinterest
  • Sir Charles Godfray, Director of the Oxford Martin School

'The COVID-19 pandemic is shining a fierce light onto the areas of our society that urgently need fixing. It has highlighted the inequalities, the divisions, and the scarcities. Now more than ever, it has shown us that there is a huge need for us to be connected and supported by ties of community, empathy, and compassion. Right now, our world is being reshaped and reframed by this pandemic, presenting our post-COVID-19 society with multiple challenges,' said Ana Bakshi, Director of the Oxford Foundry.

'Universities are uniquely placed to address these, being home to multiple communities and having the capability to bring them together rapidly and effectively. We have repurposed the majority of the Foundry team’s time towards our COVID-19 response and are determined to feed into the huge efforts being made across the world,' added Bakshi.

Foundry senior advisor Reid Hoffman CBE said:

'The Oxford Foundry COVID-19 action plan combines two important elements: supporting a portfolio of ventures that are already directly responding to the pandemic crisis, and engaging Oxford’s talented entrepreneurial students and alumni to rapidly build practical solutions to the secondary and tertiary problems the crisis is bringing to the surface – challenges such as food scarcity, supply chain breakdown, coping with mass bereavement and trauma, and the remote delivery of education. At this time of global crisis, we all need to be leveraging on our respective communities and creating new ways for us to conceive and build the frameworks that our post-COVID society will need in order to function and flourish again. I'm heartened by the Foundry's swift and intelligent response to these huge societal challenges, and optimistic that the impact generated from this initiative will be deep and far-reaching.'

Advisor to the Oxford Foundry and Chair of the Amersi Foundation, Mohamed Amersi, said:

'Now is the time to put people before profit. Our goal is to relieve pressure on our vital services, save lives, and make sure the wellbeing, education and livelihoods of our populations remain supported. The Oxford Foundry is central in mobilising and directing talent towards these goals, from both within the University and outside. In these challenging times, the Foundry is a beacon of light and ultimately, when the pandemic will pass the learnings imparted by the Foundry will prevail and the world will be a better place as a result.'

‘Universities play an integral role in society, but never more so than during these unprecedented times. They are at the front line in our fight against COVID-19, and our entire higher education sector has a key role to play.

Universities Minister Michelle Donelan MP said:

'I am immensely grateful to all of those undertaking the vital work to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 on our students, universities and wider communities. I know you are all working creatively and tirelessly under difficult circumstances and I welcome the launch of this initiative to continue these efforts.’

Foundry Advisor and Co-founder of Twitter, Biz Stone said:

'As an advisor to the Oxford Foundry, I am part of a talented multidisciplinary community. At this moment in history, it's imperative that we harness the ability of networks like Oxford for the greater good and for the future of society. We are currently engaged on two fronts. First, we are supporting our existing ventures already directly responding to the pandemic. Next, we are mobilising this vast network of great minds to come up with actionable solutions to the myriad problems that lay ahead. We can all, both individually and collectively, respond to the challenges the world is facing at this moment. In doing so, we give ourselves the greatest chance of standing stronger together on the other side.'

Foundry Advisor and Founder, Managing Partner of Merian Ventures and board member of the Fulbright US-UK Foundation Alexsis de Raadt St James, said:

'As a Board Member, I have consistently been impressed by the talent and ideas at the Oxford Foundry so I'm delighted to support their COVID-19 Action Plan. The world faces a myriad of challenges to address the pandemic of today and the uncertain world of tomorrow.  But I know that these entrepreneurs, and the global network supporting them, will be fundamental to developing the solutions that will allow us to build a better future.'

Oxford’s Pro Vice-Chancellor for Innovation, Chas Bountra, said:

'In recent weeks many brilliant researchers across the university, have tapped into their networks in academia, industry, regulatory agencies, government and funding organisations, and have rapidly built large scale partnerships in order to fast track new innovations, including for example the production of new vaccines, diagnostics, therapeutics and ventilators. The Oxford Foundry has similarly engaged the full breadth of our student body, alumni and investor network to create practical solutions for the coming weeks and months. It is inspiring to see young talent using all their creativity, intellectual prowess, entrepreneurial skills and energy, to help patients across the globe in this period of global crisis.'

Foundry Advisor and Dean of Saïd Business School, Peter Tufano, said:

'One of the core strengths of Saïd Business School is our work in entrepreneurship. Through initiatives including the Foundry’s COVID-19 Action plan, , we have mobilised our entrepreneurial alumni, students, faculty, and global networks to respond quickly on many fronts. The actions we take and the decisions we make at this moment may deeply influence the future of our society and global livelihoods for generations to come.'

Thank you to our partners and supporters: 

VerizonGyanaWPM, Citi Private BankOSI, SantanderOxford Engineers without BordersOxford Biotech SocietyOxford Strategy GroupOxford Women in BusinessOxRam (Robotics and Additive Manufacturing) SocietyOxford Artificial Intelligence Society, The Oxford Guild

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About The Oxford Foundry

The Oxford Foundry, entrepreneurship centre, University of Oxford, was opened by Tim Cook of Apple in 2017. The Foundry supports all 24,000 students at Oxford, as well as all alumni, to better society through entrepreneurship. The Foundry does this through knowledge exchange, multi-disciplinary collaboration and experiential skills training.

The Foundry is building a new generation of ventures that, whilst commercial, are focused on people first. To date, the 32 ventures on the Foundry’s L.E.V8 accelerator have raised over £11m, created 71 jobs globally, and are creating positive impact around the world across all sectors and industries. The Foundry has 3,400+ members from all four divisions of the University, representing 103 nationalities and a 45% female / 55% male split. They have delivered over 7,500 hours of learning.

For further information about the Oxford Foundry, view the Oxford Foundry Impact report for 2018/19.

-ENDS-

Editor’s notes:

Ana Bakshi, Director of the Oxford Foundry, is available for interviews, as are some of the champions and advisors listed above. We can also connect journalists with founders of any of the 13 start-ups currently buildings solutions to COVID-19.

Please contact the Saïd Business School press office:

Tom Pilsworth
Press Officer
+44 01865 288879
thomas.pilsworth@sbs.ox.ac.uk

Victoria Roe
PR Consultant
M: +44 07967 804140
proffice@sbs.ox.ac.uk

Public Affairs Directorate News: COVID-19: Oxford Foundry, an entrepreneurship centre at Oxford, accelerates innovative solutions