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Controlling the Spread of Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria

Controlling the spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria

Controlling the spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria

A focus on preventing the introduction of antibiotic resistant bacteria from perceived high risk hospitals may be undermining efforts to control their spread across England.

A study published in the journal BMC Medicine has shown that a larger number of patient transfers from lower risk hospitals may pose a greater absolute threat of spread than a small number of transfers from hospitals that have been identified as higher risk.

The researchers from the NIHR Health Protection Research Unit at the University of Oxford used data from the National Health Service of England Hospital Episode Statistics to examine the number of reported cases of the antibiotic resistant microbe carbapenemase-producing Enterobacteriaceae (CPE) between 2008 and 2014.

The number of reported cases of CPE across all of England rose from 26 cases in 2008 to 1,649 in 2014. There were large regional differences in reported cases, which reflected patient movements between hospitals within each of the 14 referral regions across the country. However, the vast majority of patients with CPE came from within a hospital’s own region, and only 1.8% came from outside the region – even if hospitals outside the region were high risk.

Dr Tjibbe Donker of the Nuffield Department of Medicine, Oxford, said: “Controlling the spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria is a high priority for health care providers, which is why hospitals are advised to screen high-risk patients for antibiotic-resistant bacteria on admission. Patients are usually identified as high risk if they are being transferred from hospitals with known antibiotic resistance problems.

“Our study showed that the effect of the numbers of patients moving from hospital to hospital between and within regions was mostly more important than the effect caused by the difference in antibiotic resistance prevalence between the regions. This means that it would be more efficient for hospitals to focus on their own populations or region to control the spread rather than focusing on higher risk areas elsewhere.

“Performing regular point prevalence surveys would allow health care providers to actively track and share their antibiotic resistance prevalence numbers, even if they are relatively low. These numbers are critical to distinguish between the actual and perceived levels of risk.”

Responsibility for control and prevention of antibiotic resistant bacteria currently lies with individual healthcare institutions.

The full paper, ‘The relative importance of large problems far away versus small problems closer to home: insights into limiting the spread of antimicrobial resistance in England,’ can be read in the journal BMC Medicine.

Oxford Reflects Fondly on Cassini as the End Draws Near

Oxford reflects fondly on Cassini as the end draws near

Saturn's moon Enceladus and spacecraft Cassini–Huygens in front of planet Saturn, rings and other moons (3D illustration, elements of this image are furnished by NASA)

A spacecraft that scientists from the University of Oxford played a key role in building, has come closer to the planet of Saturn than ever before.

On Wednesday 26 April 2017, Cassini became the first spacecraft to ever plunge between Saturn and its innermost rings. In doing so, it came closer to the planet than any probe before it. This historic manoeuvre marks the beginning of the end, for what has been a landmark space mission.

Led by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, the probe was first launched over twenty years ago. Since leaving Earth it has informed a new age of science, enabling unparalleled understanding of Saturn’s activity. Over the next five months the satellite will make a series of bold orbits around the planet (twenty-two in total), delivering valuable, high quality data. Before finally, burning into oblivion, as it runs out of fuel and crashes into Saturn’s atmosphere. The culmination of decades of work, the end of Cassini will be bittersweet for all involved, including the team of scientists at Oxford University and RAL Space in Didcot, who built some of the instrument’s most significant components.

The original Cassini mission launched in 1997 and the Department of Physics at Oxford University has been involved with the satellite’s creation from the start, with the team even attending the launch at Cape Canaveral. The joint US and European Cassini-Huygens mission is the most complex and ambitious unmanned space expedition in history. Cassini was the first spacecraft to orbit Saturn, and has informed scientists’ understanding of its structure and atmospheric make-up, including the realisation that the planet has sixty two moons, twenty more than first thought.

Cassini/CIRS has been the bedrock of our scientific exploration of the solar system for the last 20 years and has come closer to Saturn than any probe before it. For some of us, who got married around the same time of the launch in 1997, the mission has particular personal resonance and we will thus be very, very sad to see it finally finish.

From a collective statement given by the Oxford University team involved in the Cassini mission to Saturn.

Scientists from Oxford provided significant components to one of the mission’s main instruments; the “Composite Infrared Spectrometer” or “CIRS”. The CIRS measures the heat emitted by a planet’s atmosphere or surface, and reveals the individual elements present in samples of minerals and gasses, revealing their chemical make-up.

The Cassini instrument was led overall by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, but here in Oxford, the team provided two critical structural elements; Firsty, the radiative cooler, which is the radiator that sits on the side of the spacecraft, cooling the CIRS infra-red detectors to -190C; and the mid-infrared focal plane assembly, which holds the infrared detectors and focuses the light from the instrument’s main telescope, a bit like the retina of the lens of an eye.

As the mission draws to a close (due to complete and self-destruct in September 2017), the technology has allowed the team to use CIRS data to analyse and observe the atmospheres of Saturn and its giant moon Titan. CIRS has been involved in some major discoveries, such as mapping the temperature variations on Saturn’s moons, and identifying the heat pouring out of Enceladus’ south polar region. It has also informed an understanding of the atmospheric variation and dynamic processes at play in Saturn’s atmosphere. (e.g. the north polar ‘hexagon’ in Saturn’s thermal structure, seasonal variations and mapping the development and chemistry of a giant stratospheric ‘beacon’ seen in 2010). It has also made great advances in understanding the complex organic chemistry and seasonal variations in the atmosphere of its giant moon Titan.

Led by Dr Simon Calcutt of Oxford’s Department of Atmospheric Physics, the team included;  Dr Patrick Irwin, Professor of Planetary Physics (who went on to lead the scientific analysis effort), Dr Neil Bowles, University Lecturer, and Dr Jane Hurley, previously a Post-Doctoral Research Associate at Oxford, and now Project Manager at Science and Technology Facilities Council RAL Space.

Speaking on the mission’s imminent conclusion, the Oxford University Cassini team said: “Cassini/CIRS has been the bedrock of our scientific exploration of the solar system for the last 20 years and has come closer to Saturn than any probe before it. For some of us, who got married around the same time of the launch in 1997, the mission has particular personal resonance and we will thus be very, very sad to see it finally finish.

“The instrument has been an amazing success and worked pretty much flawlessly since arriving at Saturn in 2004.  The Oxford and RAL teams have a long history of supporting the operations of the instrument and spacecraft, including designing many of the observations of Saturn, Titan, and icy moons. The project has however not come without its challenges: the instrument is programmed using software here at Oxford, and commands are then sent on to Nasa, who up-link them to the spacecraft. This has sometimes been technically challenging, particularly keeping the glint from the planet’s rings or a moon out of the instrument’s line of sight. Ring-dodging was an occupational hazard that none of us imagined when starting to work on this! None the less we are all tremendously proud of the mission’s accomplishment, and to have played a part in such a monumental piece of planetary research.”

Star Wars In a Petri Dish

Star Wars in a petri dish

Star Wars in a petri dish

A new method has been developed for observing the effects of drugs on heart cells under the microscope.

Researchers from Oxford University created the technique to test the effects of new or commonly used drugs on heart function, as well as exploring new ways to treat diabetes.

The new method involves flashing blue light onto the cell and watching how it responds by looking at it with a red light.

The technique involves inserting genes from blue-green algae and tropical coral into heart or pancreatic cells, which are created in the laboratory. The modified cells are introduced to a laser beam in a microscope, which the researchers named ‘the Death Star’, and the process is then filmed with a camera.

The laser beam turns the cells on and off, making them contract and relax to a fixed beat, which enables researchers to observe small changes that the drugs make in the way the cell responds.

For the past 60 years equivalent work has been conducted by capturing cells on a needle and then running an electric current through them.

Current experimental techniques are carried out on a cell by cell basis, which make them slow and inefficient, while the new method enables multiple cells to be used simultaneously. The new technique also enables cells to be controlled and observed remotely with light, rather than with direct contact.

Lead investigator, Dr Matthew Daniels from the Radcliffe Department of Medicine at Oxford, said: ‘This research works using a simple microscope and a virus and means we no longer need to touch the cell or the dish. This allows hundreds of cells to be studied at the same time – so we have made the process a lot more efficient, and a lot easier to do.

‘This will help us to identify drugs to treat diabetes and prevent sudden death, as we can detect helpful changes in pancreatic cells, and harmful changes in heart cells with this approach.

‘It is a lot quicker and easier to do, meaning that work that usually takes three months and millions of cells can be conducted in three days on a handful of cells.’

The full paper, ‘Non-invasive phenotyping and drug testing in single cardiomyocytes or beta-cells by calcium imaging and optogenetics’, can be read in the journal Plos One.

Widely Used Engineering Technique Has Unintended Consequences New Research Reveals

Widely used engineering technique has unintended consequences new research reveals

A technique that revolutionised scientists’ ability to manipulate and study materials at the nano-scale may have dramatic unintended consequences, new Oxford University research reveals.

Focused Ion Beam Milling (FIB) uses a tiny beam of highly energetic particles to cut and analyse materials smaller than one thousandth of a stand of human hair. This remarkable capability transformed scientific fields ranging from materials science and engineering to biology and earth sciences. FIB is now an essential tool for a number of applications including; microscopy, researching high performance alloys for aerospace engineering, nuclear and automotive applications and for prototyping in micro-electronics and micro-fluidics.

FIB was previously understood to cause structural damage within a thin surface layer (tens of atoms thick) of the material being cut. Until now it was assumed that the effects of FIB would not extend beyond this thin damaged layer. Ground-breaking new results from the University of Oxford demonstrate that this is not the case, and that FIB can in fact dramatically alter the material’s structural identity. This work was carried out in collaboration with colleagues from Argonne National Laboratory, USA, LaTrobe University, Australia, and the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy, UK.

In research newly published in the journal Scientific Reports, the team studied the damage caused by FIB using a technique called coherent synchrotron X-ray diffraction. This relies on ultra-bright high energy X-rays, available only at central facilities such as the Advanced Photon Source at Argonne National Lab, USA. These X-rays can probe the 3D structure of materials at the nano-scale. The results show that even very low FIB doses, previously thought negligible, have a dramatic effect.

Felix Hofmann, Associate Professor in Oxford’s Department of Engineering Science and lead author on the study, said, ‘Our research shows that FIB beams have much further-reaching consequences than first thought, and that the structural damage caused is considerable. It affects the entire sample, fundamentally changing the material. Given the role FIB has come to play in science and technology, there is an urgent need to develop new strategies to properly understand the effects of FIB damage and how it might be controlled.’

Prior to the development of FIB, sample preparation techniques were limited, only allowing sections to be prepared from the material bulk, but not from specific features. FIB transformed this field by making it possible to cut out tiny coupons from specific sites in a material. This progression enabled scientists to examine specific material feature using high-resolution electron microscopes. Furthermore it has made mechanical testing of tiny material specimens possible, a necessity for the study of dangerous or extremely precious materials.

Although keen for his peers to heed the serious consequence of FIB, Professor Hofmann said, ‘The scientific community has been aware of this issue for a while now, but no one (myself included) realised the scale of the problem. There is no way we could have known that FIB had such invasive side effects. The technique is integral to our work and has transformed our approach to prototyping and microscopy, completely changing the way we do science. It has become a central part of modern life.’

Moving forward, the team is keen to develop awareness of FIB damage. Furthermore, they will build on their current work to gain a better understanding of the damage formed and how it might be removed. Professor Hofmann said, ‘We’re learning how to get better. We have gone from using the technique blindly, to working out how we can actually see the distortions caused by FIB. Next we can consider approaches to mitigate FIB damage. Importantly the new X-ray techniques that we have developed will allow us to assess how effective these approaches are. From this information we can then start to formulate strategies for actively managing FIB damage.’

For further information please contact Lanisha Butterfield in the University of Oxford press office at or on+44 (0)1865 280531

Smarter Council Services Through Robotics Technology

Smarter council services through robotics technology

Smarter council services through robotics technology

A smart street mapping initiative, using technology developed by Oxford Robotics Institute, could help transform how infrastructure services are managed in the city.

In collaboration with the City Council the University of Oxford’s Robotics Institute (ORI) are fitting their NABU mapping technology, originally developed for autonomous vehicles, on street cleaners over the coming months.

NABU is a self-contained survey tool that uses various sensors to create fast, detailed and accurate maps of the environment.  By attaching NABU to the council’s street cleaners, ORI researchers will collect data of the city and create 3D maps of Oxford.

The trials are part of the city’s Smart Oxford initiative, which promotes the adoption of information and communications technology to improve the efficiency of services. Smart street mapping will monitor what is happening in the city and how the city is evolving over time.  This will help Oxford City Council provide better services and improve the quality of life for residents and visitors.

This trial will help us with our own research for autonomous vehicles and will help the Council and other partners gather data that can improve the management and maintenance of the city.

Paul Newman, Professor of Information Engineering at the University of Oxford

At the same time, the information collected will be used to support autonomous vehicle research at the ORI.

The data being trialled, as part of the project will include:

  • road and pavement surface damage
  • air quality
  • people numbers and movement
  • litter and fly-tipping
  • parked vehicles
  • broken streetlights and signs
  • heat loss from buildings

The information gathered will enable the City Council and its partners to better plan and implement their approach to community management. It will also inform a library of unreported issues such as fly-tipping, which the service will then be better placed to act upon. If initial trials are successful, the new innovation could see the City Council add the mapping tool to its fleet of vehicles.

View the sensor generated footage of a 3D map of Oxford’s Cornmarket Street here:

Smart street mapping marks the first time that ORI innovations have informed local developments, and is testament to the role that University research plays in supporting better city life.

Paul Newman, Professor of Information Engineering at the University of Oxford, said: ‘We are really excited to be working in our home city with the City Council to map and gather data using one of our NABU sensors on a street sweeper. This trial will help us with our own research for autonomous vehicles and will help the Council and other partners gather data that can improve the management and maintenance of the city’.

Sebastian Johnson, Vice Chair of the Smart Oxford Board and Project Manager at Oxford City Council, said: ‘Working with the Oxford Robotics Institute we are exploring how the City Council’s fleet of street cleaners and refuse collection vehicles can be fitted with sensors, developed by the ORI, to map the city.

‘At the same time we are looking to gather information and data that can help us improve the way we run the city as an efficient and effective Council. Our open data platform will also allow innovators to explore and use the data to create new ideas and applications.

‘Oxford is the home to world-leading mobile autonomy and robotics research and development, and the City Council and our wider partners on the Smart Oxford Board are keen to support innovation and research to benefit those living in the city.’

Information updates will be published regularly so that local people will be able to track the initiative’s progress on the Smart Oxford website, via its publicly accessible, Oxfordshire Open Data page.

‘Amazing’ Opportunities For Local Children at Oxford For Oxford Scheme

‘Amazing’ opportunities for local children at Oxford for Oxford scheme

Oxford for Oxford

A three-year project that aims to make Oxford University’s assets accessible to the community has reached the halfway point.

Oxford for Oxford has created thousands of interactions between the University and local school children through a host of events held across the city.

Dr Anna Caughey from the University’s Widening Access and Participation team, who runs the Oxford for Oxford project, said: ‘Oxford is a fantastic place to live and we’re so lucky to be able to benefit from what the university has to offer. Everyone who lives here should have those opportunities, and you see how absolutely vital those connections are when you see our students running around museums with excited primary school children, looking at dinosaurs together, or mathematicians explaining their research to children and parents.’

Activities held as part of Oxford for Oxford have included school visits, trips and workshops, as well as appearances at family fun days and festivals. One such activity is ‘Museum Club’, in which pupils explore the University’s world-renowned museums and collections with the help of undergraduate students.

The project works with state schools in key areas of the city, helping support pupil attainment and promote connections between teachers, students, families and the University.

Holly Laceby, head of English at Tyndale Community School in Cowley, was invited with her pupils to visit Magdalen College to learn about the author CS Lewis. Speaking to the Oxford Mail, she said: ‘We were walked around by students who had volunteered to help and then given a talk in the library. The children were just gobsmacked by the whole experience. They were coming back to school saying “I want to go to university”, which is just amazing. For them to look up to people who went to university – especially when many of them won’t have any role models who went – has a huge impact on their personal goals. As a school the programme has given us amazing opportunities.’

Oxford Academy teacher Katie Braham, whose Year 8 and 9 pupils were given a tour of Trinity College, told the Oxford Mail: ‘The children spent time with undergraduates and had time to chat to them and ask questions about things like the food and what the bedrooms are like – real-life parts of being a student. Then we went with them to a Live Friday event at the Ashmolean Museum, which was fantastic. Some of our pupils have never been to the city centre before and might not ever have considered going to university, so it’s great for them to be able to have that experience. One boy said to me “Miss, the buildings are really posh but all the students are just normal people”. Learning that is what it’s all about.’

Oxford Academics Honoured By the American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Oxford academics honoured by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Oxford academics honoured by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences

The American Academy of Arts and Sciences has awarded membership of its 2017 class to two Oxford academics.

They are Professor Desmond King who specialises in the study of the American state in US executive politics, and race and politics in American political development; and Dr Keith Stewart Thomson, emeritus professor of natural history and former director of the Oxford University Museum of Natural History at the University of Oxford.

Dr Keith Stewart Thomson

Dr Keith Stewart Thomson, emeritus professor of natural history and former director of the Oxford University Museum of Natural History at the University of Oxford.

The American Academy of Arts and Sciences is one of the country’s oldest learned societies and independent policy research centres, convening leaders from the academic, business, and government sectors to respond to national and global challenges.

Members contribute to Academy publications and studies in science, engineering, and technology policy; global security and international affairs; the humanities, arts, and education; and American institutions and the public good.

Don Randel, Chair of the Academy’s Board of Directors, said: ‘It is an honour to welcome this new class of exceptional women and men as part of our distinguished membership. Their talents and expertise will enrich the life of the Academy and strengthen our capacity to spread knowledge and understanding in service to the nation.’

‘In a tradition reaching back to the earliest days of our nation, the honour of election to the American Academy is also a call to service,’ said Academy President Jonathan F Fanton.

‘Through our projects, publications, and events, the Academy provides members with opportunities to make common cause and produce the useful knowledge for which the Academy’s 1780 charter calls.’

Professor Desmond King

Professor Desmond King, Andrew W. Mellon Professor of American Government, Nuffield College

The new class will be inducted at a ceremony on October 7, 2017, in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Genetic Study Reveals How Hepatitis C Interacts With Humans

Genetic study reveals how hepatitis C interacts with humans

Genetic study reveals how hepatitis C interacts with humans

A big data study of hepatitis C and more than 500 patients with the virus has opened the way for a better understanding of how the virus interacts with its human hosts.

Researchers at the University of Oxford have for the first time developed a method for analysing and comparing the genetic makeup of the hepatitis C virus (HCV), as well as that of more than 500 patients with the virus. Looked at together, this will give researchers new insights into HCV and how the human genome interacts with and changes the virus.

Viral hepatitis is one of the leading causes of death and disability worldwide, with 2-3% of the world’s population thought to be infected with HCV, including an estimated 300,000 in the UK. Many people are unaware they are infected with the virus, which left untreated can led to liver disease and cancer.

Professor Ellie Barnes from the Nuffield Department of Medicine, who led the study with Dr Chris Spencer, said: ‘This is the first use of a big-data study to look at a virus and host together. We identified two places in the human genome where the genetic variation that calibrates our immune system affects the genetic diversity of the virus.

‘There are new drugs available which can clear HCV infection, but they are very expensive and access to them is currently limited. These drugs are also less effective in treating some of the seven strains of the infection that exist than others, which highlights the importance of understanding the genetic basis of the disease for developing future treatments.

‘Within 15 years, DNA sequencing of disease-causing bugs like HCV will become a routine part of healthcare. This sort of information can be used to tailor treatments for each patient, to help ensure that the patient is given the best drugs or the right amount of time to give the best possible chance of managing or recovering from infection.’

Researchers within STOP-HCV, a national consortium funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC) and led from Oxford University, are developing big genetic data sets to improve treatments for HCV, and to better understand the biology of HCV infection.

The study highlighted two human genes that change the hepatitis C virus over time.

One of the positions in the human genome (the HLA) reveals those parts of the HCV virus that have tried to mutate to escape recognition by the human immune system. The researchers used the data to create a map of these selective pressures across the viral genome, which can be used to find weak spots that are critical for the virus to survive and these can be used as the target of new therapies or vaccines.

The second position in the human genome highlighted in the study that impacts on the virus activates an immune gene which is switched off in some individuals. The impact of activating this gene is to change the number of viruses that are present in the patient’s blood.

Large-scale analysis of the DNA of the patient and the virus will provide an opportunity to study the way the human immune system naturally responds to HCV infection, and how that impacts on viral evolution.

The full paper, ‘Genome-to-genome analysis highlights the impact of the human innate and adaptive immune systems on the hepatitis C virus,’ can be read in the journal Nature Genetics.

Wikipedia Articles On Plane Crashes Show What We Remember

Wikipedia articles on plane crashes show what we remember

Wreckage of the Malaysia Airlines MH17 flight near Rossipne, Donetsk region of Ukraine.

Oxford University researchers have tracked how recent aircraft incidents or accidents trigger past events and the factors making some consistently more memorable than others.

Using the English version of Wikipedia, they analysed articles about airline crashes between 2008 and 2016. They then measured how the traffic to articles about airline crashes or incidents before 2008 changed due to more recent events. They analysed page views of nearly 85,000 pairs of articles (which they named as “source articles” and “target articles”) and found there was a short-term attention span for recent crashes. More people appeared to look at articles about past crashes they remembered when their memory was triggered by the recent event. The researchers’ model shows that, on average, when target events from the past are combined, they attract 142 percent more page views than articles about the original source events.

Their mathematical model, presented in the article, allows the researchers to find, for example, that the case of the co-pilot who in 2015 deliberately crashed a plane on a German flight, led to three times more views of a ‘target’ article about an incident in 2001 in New York in which pilot error played a part. The researchers also discovered that interest slumps to near zero in articles about aircraft incidents that happened more than 45 years ago. In their research paper, they explain this could be because people who were adults at the time have since died, forgotten about the event or, if still living, simply do not use Wikipedia.

Generally, air crashes that happened in the same location did not appear to be linked in the public’s collective memory, says the study. This is despite a previous study, also based on page views of Wikipedia articles, showing public interest in individual crashes was determined by where the plane came down.

Most of the pairs of ‘source’ and ‘target’ articles tracked by the researchers did not contain hyperlinks that linked to one another. However, without hyperlinks the average rate of traffic dropped by only 32 percent as compared with pairs that did contain web links between the articles. However, interestingly, the same general patterns are observed in pairs of articles that are not hyperlinked to each other as articles that carry weblinks.  The paper suggests that the memory patterns are more fundamental than the hyperlink networks of the web.

When we look at the factors that link one event with another and measure the number of page views, we start to see what makes some events particularly memorable and model the collective memory

Professor Taha Yasseri from the Oxford Internet Institute

As might be expected, modelling based on page views shows that aviation disasters with large numbers of deaths (involving 50 or more) are remembered more than reported events with fewer fatalities. But the model also shows that there is even greater public interest in articles when crashes result in no deaths, possibly because such events are remarkable for other reasons.

Team Leader Professor Taha Yasseri, from the Oxford Internet Institute and the Alan Turing Institute in London, said: ‘The way people use Wikipedia is a good proxy for how people use the internet more generally. When we look at the factors that link one event with another and measure the number of page views, we start to see what makes some events particularly memorable and model the collective memory.

‘Using English Wikipedia page views, we find that aviation disasters are more memorable if they happened quite recently, involved Western companies, and if the cause of the crash is similar to the new event. There are major events like the 9/11 crashes, for example, that are more likely to be remembered than the new event that triggers the past. In other cases, however, these similarities and associations might trigger our memory of past events that would otherwise not be remembered very much. This happened in the case of the Iran Air flight 655 shot down by a US navy guided missile in 1988, which was not generally well remembered but triggered far more attention when the Malaysia Airlines 17 flight was hit by a missile over Ukraine.  The research for the first time measures these factors and provides a way of modelling our collective memory.’

Lead author, Dr Ruth García-Gavilanes said: ‘When we observe these memory patterns, a good question is, “what mechanisms drove people to the Wikipedia pages of those past events?”. Here we only describe the patterns, but a next step would be to analyse if memories are what we remember from seeing the news, or social media, or an individual’s own recollection of the actual event.’

Anders Mollgaard, a co-author from the Niels Bohr Institute in Denmark, said: ‘Our work shows that different topics are connected to each other through memory and association, thereby forming an interconnected network of topics. What was particularly surprising as that the memory effect had a larger impact on the number of views than the main event.’

The paper, ‘The memory remains: Understanding collective memory in the digital age‘, is by Ruth García-Gavilanes et al and published by Science Advances online.

Professor Sir Tim Berners-Lee Honoured With International Turing Award For Computing

Professor Sir Tim Berners-Lee honoured with international Turing Award for Computing

Professor Sir Tim Berners-Lee. Credit: Henry Thomas

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, Professorial Research Fellow in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Oxford and Fellow of Christ Church, has received the 2016 ACM A.M. Turing Award.

Best known for inventing the first World Wide Web browser, server, website and editor, Sir Tim’s innovations are considered to be some of the most influential contributions in computing history.

The award is named after Alan M Turing, the British Mathematician who first discovered the mathematical foundation and limits of computing. The ACM Turing Award, is also known as the ‘Nobel Prize of Computing’ and carries a $1 million prize provided by Google Inc.

ACM President Vicki L. Hanson said: ‘The first-ever World Wide Web site went online in 1991. Although this doesn’t seem that long ago, it is hard to imagine the world before Sir Tim Berners Lee’s invention. Many people may not fully appreciate the underlying technical contribution that make the Web possible, but Sir Tim Berners-Lee not only developed the key components, such as  URIs and web browsers that allow us to use the web, but offered a coherent vision of how each of these elements would work together as part of an integrated whole.’

The Turing Award is the greatest academic honour that can be bestowed upon a computer scientist. It is entirely fitting that Tim should receive it now: I can think of no other living individual who has changed our modern world more profoundly.

Professor Mike Woolridge, Head of Computer Science at Oxford University

In addition to his Oxford Fellowship, Sir Tim is a full time Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) USA. He graduated from Oxford with a first-class degree in Physics in 1976, and returned in 2016, as a member of the Computer Science Department.

Honoured as one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people of the 20th century, his communications tools are now used by billions of people globally, every day. Sir Tim launched the world’s first website on 6 August 1991 and just three years later, by 1994, the number of websites had grown to nearly 3,000 and today stands at more than 1 billion websites online.

Professor Mike Woolridge, Head of Computer Science at Oxford, said: ‘The Turing Award is the greatest academic honour that can be bestowed upon a computer scientist. It is entirely fitting that Tim should receive it now: I can think of no other living individual who has changed our modern world more profoundly. Sir Tim is the third University of Oxford professor to receive the Turing Award, following Dana Scott in 1976, and Sir Tony Hoare in 1980 and we are immensely proud of this illustrious heritage.’

Vice-Chancellor Urges Support For Hungary’s Central European University

Vice-Chancellor urges support for Hungary’s Central European University



The Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University, Professor Louise Richardson, has called on the Hungarian Government to reconsider legislation changes affecting Budapest’s Central European University. In a letter to the Financial Times, Professor Richardson, a member of the Central European University Board of Trustees, warns that the proposed changes ‘would endanger the academic freedom vital for CEU’s continued operation in Budapest and would strike a blow against the values that enable all universities to flourish.’

The full text of Professor Richardson’s letter reads:


The Hungarian Government is proposing legislative changes which will prevent Budapest’s Central European University from awarding degrees accredited in both the US and Hungary. These changes would endanger the academic freedom vital for CEU’s continued operation in Budapest, and would strike a blow against the values that enable all universities to flourish.

In twenty-five years, Central European University has established itself as a private international university with a global reputation for excellence in teaching and research in the social sciences and humanities. It attracts students from 117 countries and faculty from 40. CEU’s masters and doctoral programmes are accredited by the Regents of the State of New York. The University as a whole is accredited by the US Middle States Commission on Higher Education. CEU’s programmes are also certified by appropriate Hungarian authorities. The university has complied in full with all Hungarian laws.

In a very short time, CEU has acquired global recognition among its peer universities around the world. In international rankings, some of CEU’s departments are rated among the top 50 in the world. It is the most successful institution in securing European Research Council grants in Central and Eastern Europe. Several of its faculty, in fields as various as medieval studies and network and cognitive science, have won the most prestigious awards in their disciplines.

CEU’s achievements have made it a valued member of the international academic community. Its presence in Hungary has added to the reputation of Hungarian academic life on the international stage. I believe that the government’s proposed legislation to alter its statutes of operation in Hungary would compromise its academic freedom, would abrogate prior agreements with and assurances from the Hungarian Government, and would set a dangerous precedent by curtailing the indispensable condition of academic freedom and independence.

As Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University and a recently elected member of the Board of Trustees of the Central European University, I respectfully urge the Hungarian government to reconsider this proposed legislation. They should bear in mind the damage it would do not only to this admirable university but also to Hungary’s international academic reputation, and its long and proud tradition as a home for culture, the arts and intellectual achievement.

Yours sincerely,

Professor Louise Richardson

Vice-Chancellor, Oxford University

New Potential Treatment Target For Patients With Inflammatory Bowel Disease

New potential treatment target for patients with inflammatory bowel disease


A new study published in Nature Medicine could change the lives of millions of people living with inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) who don’t respond to the current standard of care.

Researchers at the Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology and Translational Gastroenterology Unit, University of Oxford have identified a potential therapeutic target for IBD. The findings are of particular importance to the 40% of patients who don’t respond to anti-TNF therapy, the current treatment option available.

The new study published in Nature Medicine on 3 April 2017 shows that IBD patients have higher concentrations of Oncostatin M (OSM), a protein linked to inflammation, in their intestine and suggest that blocking OSM could prove to be a successful treatment for IBD.

The research also shows that patients with high amounts of OSM in their intestine respond poorly to anti-TNF therapy (such as adalimumab, golimumab, or infliximab), which has been the most effective therapy for IBD for almost 20 years. When tested against samples from a phase 3 trial of anti-TNF therapy, the amount of OSM in gut tissue predicted lack of response.

IBD are chronic painful diseases, which include conditions such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. IBD affect at least 5 million people worldwide and this number increases annually, especially in East Asia, although it is most common in Europe and North America.

Director of the Kennedy Institute and lead researcher on the study, Professor Fiona Powrie says: “This is a very important finding, because at the moment we are unable to predict which patients will respond well to current therapies; this has an impact on the care we are able to provide to these patients.”

She adds: “By understanding more about the immune system in IBD patients we hope to identify markers that allow us to predict which patients will respond to which therapies, ensuring treatments are targeted to those most likely to benefit.”

Genetics plays an important role in IBD, but so do molecules called cytokines that are made by the immune system and regulate the amount of inflammation. Several of these proteins have been considered as treatment targets for patients who don’t respond to anti-TNF therapy, but few have proved effective for treating IBD.

For this study, the research team searched for additional cytokines that could be promoting IBD. Patients were found to have more OSM cytokine in their intestine than healthy controls, with the highest concentrations of OSM predicting which patients would have a poor response to anti-TNF therapy.

This suggests that blocking OSM could prove a successful alternative treatment for IBD and work is underway to test this.

Anti-TNF therapy is expensive and some patients don’t respond well. A test to measure OSM could help target this therapy to patients most likely to benefit.

Professor Powrie said: “With around 2 million patients worldwide not responding to the current treatment, it is of paramount importance to find new therapies for IBD. The identification of OSM as a new disease mediator in these patients offers hope for new therapies that can be tested in the clinic.”

Professor Simon Travis, Professor of Clinical Gastroenterology at the University of Oxford and also a co-author confirmed this view: “This is really exciting. Until now no one has been able to predict who will or will not respond to anti-TNF therapy. OSM has real potential for selecting the right patient and also as a target for novel therapy to help patients suffering from IBD.”

It is worth noting that OSM is involved in a range of processes to maintain a healthy body, including liver repair and cardiac tissue remodelling. Unfortunately, its over production seems to promote a number of diseases, such as skin and lung inflammation, atherosclerosis, several forms of cancer and possibly arthritis.

For further information, please contact Chris McIntyre in the University of Oxford press office at or on +44 (0)1865 270 046.

More Than 20 New Portraits Commissioned To Reflect Oxford University’s Diversity

More than 20 new portraits commissioned to reflect Oxford University’s diversity

Diversifying Portraiture

Oxford University has announced the full list of sitters and artists taking part in its Diversifying Portraiture initiative, which aims to broaden the range of people represented around the University.

Film and television director Ken Loach, BBC journalist Reeta Chakrabarti, eminent astrophysicist Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, award-winning author Jeanette Winterson, and human rights activist Kumi Naidoo are among those sitting for portraits as Oxford seeks to reflect and promote its increasing diversity and its commitment to inclusivity. Artists include Benjamin Sullivan, Joanna Vestey and Ander McIntyre, and the sitters comprise current academics and former students.

Portraits – mostly paintings and photographs, some of which have already been completed – will include a mixture of men and women and will feature people with disabilities, people from a variety of ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds, and people from LGBTQ+ communities.

Diarmaid MacCulloch

Professor Diarmaid MacCulloch, by Joanna Vestey.

The project, funded by the Vice-Chancellor’s Diversity Fund, previously catalogued existing paintings from around the University that highlight the range of pioneering figures whose achievements over the centuries have challenged the stereotypes of their time.

The newly commissioned works will feature in the University’s central public spaces and will add to Oxford’s rich collection of college and University portraits. Sitters were selected from over a hundred nominations of living Oxonians.

The new portraits will be shown at an exhibition in Oxford later this year.

BBC journalist Reeta Chakrabarti, who studied at Exeter College, Oxford, said: ‘I loved my time at Oxford. There weren’t – then – many people from my background at university there. But that didn’t stop my experience from being overwhelmingly good. I hope this project will show that Oxford is open to everyone, and that it wants to be more so. I hope too that it reflects present-day Oxford back at itself, and that it encourages an ever more diverse range of people to study there.’

Kumi Naidoo

Kumi Naidoo, by Fran Monks.

Professor Patricia Daley, Professor of the Human Geography of Africa at Oxford University, was chosen to be one of the sitters. She said: ‘This project is a bold attempt by the University to make a statement about inclusivity, and I was happy to be part of it. Having my portrait painted by Binny Matthews was a wonderful experience and gave me plenty to think about – what it’s like to be an educator at Oxford, the importance of my contribution as a woman racialized as black, and the ways in which our physical features are perceived by others.’Dr Marie Tidball, a research associate in Oxford’s Centre for Criminology and a disability rights campaigner, said: ‘Rendering diversity to be more visible in the places and spaces of Oxford reinforces the importance of its more central role in the University’s intellectual life. I was very moved indeed to have been nominated, and honoured to be part of this important project. It was wonderful for the University to recognise the importance of teaching and research about disability in academia. Working with Clementine Webster was a joy, and the sittings were a very special, and surprisingly relaxing, experience. After a busy year, I really appreciated the time to reflect and be still!’

Professor Louise Richardson, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford, said: ‘There is nothing quite like walking into a room and seeing someone who looks like you honoured in a portrait on the wall. It is so important for all of us to be reminded that achievement and leadership come in all colours, shapes and sizes.’

Dr Rebecca Surender, Advocate and Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Equality and Diversity at Oxford University, said: ‘It is hugely important for students and staff to feel at home at Oxford, and to feel inspired by people they can relate to. This series of portraits, created by a talented group of artists, will broaden the range of people represented around the University. All of those selected to take part have made enormous contributions to Oxford life and to society more widely.’

Trudy Coe, Head of the Equality and Diversity Unit at Oxford University, said: ‘This project is so important because it highlights and celebrates the full range of diversity at Oxford across our alumni and staff. Many colleges have already commissioned new works of art celebrating female alumnae, and we hope that this project will encourage all our departments and colleges to think of ways to celebrate the full diversity of our staff and student body, as an inspiration to current and future students and staff.’

The full list of sitters and artists:

Diran Adebayo (novelist) – Rory Carnegie
Dr Norma Aubertin-Potter (librarian) – Emily Carrington Freeman
Dame Susan Jocelyn Bell Burnell (astrophysicist) – Ben Hughes
Professor Dame Valerie Beral (epidemiologist) – Samantha Fellows
Professor Dorothy Bishop (developmental neuropsychologist) – Benjamin Sullivan
Reeta Chakrabarti (journalist) – Fran Monks
Dr Penelope Curtis (arts administrator) – Humphrey Ocean
Professor Patricia Daley (human geographer) – Binny Mathews
Professor Trisha Greenhalgh (primary health care scholar) – Fakhri Bismanto Bohang
Anne-Marie Imafidon (women in science campaigner) – Sarah Muirhead
Professor Dame Carole Jordan (astrophysicist) – Rupert Brooks
Professor Aditi Lahiri (linguistics scholar) – Rosalie Watkins
Kelsey Leonard (water scholar) – artist TBC
Hilary Lister (sailor) – Nicola Brandt
Ken Loach (director) – Richard Twose
Professor Diarmaid MacCulloch (historian) – Joanna Vestey
Jan Morris (writer) – Luca Coles
Kumi Naidoo (human rights activist) – Fran Monks
Dr Henry Odili Nwume (Winter Olympian) – Sarah-Jane Moon
Dame Esther Rantzen (broadcaster and charity campaigner) – Ander McIntyre
Professor Lyndal Roper (historian) – Miranda Creswell
Professor Kathy Sylva (educational psychologist) – Pippa Thew
Marie Tidball (lawyer and disability rights campaigner) – Clementine Webster
Jeanette Winterson (novelist) – Gerard Hanson

Karma Nabulsi Receives Guardian’s ‘Inspiring Leader’ Award

Karma Nabulsi receives Guardian’s ‘Inspiring Leader’ award

Karma Nabulsi after receiving her award at the ceremony

Karma Nabulsi, professor of politics at the University of Oxford, is The Guardian Higher Education Network’s 2017 Inspiring Leader award winner.

Karma lectures on social movements and philosophies of war and peace to students in the department of politics and international relations at the University of Oxford, where she is currently director of undergraduate studies. She is a Fellow in Politics at St Edmund Hall, and an Oxford UCU equalities officer, and a member of the staff BME network. She recently directed “The Palestinian Revolution”, a bilingual Arabic-English digital teaching resource exploring Palestinian revolutionary thought and practice in the 1950s, 60s and 70s. Sponsored by the British Academy, the endeavour was a collaboration with universities, institutes and museums across the global south specialising in anti-colonial history.

This “Inspirational Leader” award  is for everyone at Oxford and universities across the UK: students, staff, and faculty, who are championing equality, curriculum diversity, and innovation in research and teaching on the global South every day

Professor Karma Nabulsi, winner of Inspiring Leader award

This award honours a leader who has brought out the best in their team and achieved exceptional results. They champion innovation and collaboration, deliver real change, and inspire the higher education community.

We look for examples of brilliance in all types of universities – and then we trumpet those successes to Guardian readers around the world

Judy Friedberg, Guardian universities editor

Of Karma, the judges said: ‘Without her patience, dedication and commitment the experiences of numerous students at Oxford and elsewhere would have been immeasurably poorer. She avoids all self-celebration, but it is hard to imagine a more worthy recipient.’

‘What is so fantastic is that, after being nominated by judges from the Higher Education sector, this award was chosen through a public vote,’ said Karma. ‘I know students’ participation was at the heart of this result and a real collective effort. So this “Inspirational Leader” award  is for everyone at Oxford and universities across the UK: students, staff, and faculty, who are championing equality, curriculum diversity, and innovation in research and teaching on the global South every day. This is such lovely encouragement!’

The Guardian’s universities editor, Judy Friedberg, said of the awards presented at Wednesday night’s ceremony: ‘We don’t judge all universities by the same clunky metrics. We look for examples of brilliance in all types of universities – and then we trumpet those successes to Guardian readers around the world.’

£3m Awarded To Oxford-Led Consortium For National Computing Facility To Support Machine Learning

£3m awarded to Oxford-led consortium for national computing facility to support machine learning

£3m awarded to Oxford-led consortium for national computing facility to support machine learning

A consortium of eight UK universities, led by the University of Oxford, has been awarded £3 million by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to establish a national high-performance computing facility to support machine learning.

The new facility, known as the Joint Academic Data Science Endeavour (JADE), forms part of a combined investment of £20m by EPSRC in the UK’s regional Tier 2 high-performance computing facilities, which aim to bridge the gap between institutional and national resources.

JADE, which will be the largest Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) facility in the UK, will provide a computational hub to support the research of the world-leading groups in machine learning at the universities of Oxford, Edinburgh, Sheffield, King’s College London, Queen Mary University of London and University College London (UCL). It will also provide a powerful resource for data science and molecular dynamics researchers at the universities of Bristol and Southampton.

Machine learning has experienced huge growth over the last five years, with applications including computer vision for driverless cars, language translation services and medical imaging. JADE is the first national computing facility to support this rapid growth.

Professor Mike Giles of the Scientific Computing department at the Oxford Mathematical Institute, who is leading the project, said: ‘For the first time, JADE will provide very significant national computing facilities addressing the particular needs of machine learning, one of the fastest growing areas of academic research and industrial application.’

JADE will be delivered through a partnership between Atos, who will provide and integrate the system hardware, and STFC’s Hartree Centre, who will host and support the system for the three-year initial duration of the facility. Exploiting the capabilities of the NVIDIA DGX-1 Deep Learning System, JADE will comprise 22 of these servers, each containing 8 of the newest NVIDIA Tesla P100 GPUs linked by NVIDIA’s NVlink interconnect technology.

 ‘For the first time, JADE will provide very significant national computing facilities addressing the particular needs of machine learning, one of the fastest growing areas of academic research and industrial application.’

Professor Mike Giles, Scientific Computing department at the Mathematical Institute, Oxford University

To support researchers using the system, five software engineering posts are being created by Oxford, KCL, QMUL, Southampton and UCL. This is a key investment to ensure the necessary expertise is in place to derive maximum benefit from the new facility.

Speaking on JADE’s potential research impact, Professor Philip Nelson, EPSRC’s Chief Executive, said: ‘These centres will enable new discoveries, drive innovation and allow new insights into today’s scientific challenges. They are important because they address an existing gulf in capability between local university systems and the UK National Supercomputing Service ARCHER. Many universities are involved in the six new centres, and these will give more researchers easy access to High Performance Computing.’

Dr David Prout Appointed As Next Pro-Vice-Chancellor For Planning and Resources

Dr David Prout appointed as next Pro-Vice-Chancellor for planning and resources

David Prout1

Oxford University is delighted to announce the appointment of Dr David Prout as Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Planning and Resources in support of its commitment to internationally outstanding education and research.

Dr Prout is currently Director General of the Government’s High Speed 2 rail programme and has extensive experience of project management and policy-making in central and local government. As Pro-Vice-Chancellor he will lead Oxford’s institutional and strategic planning, as well as its resource allocation, to support the University’s mission as one of the world’s outstanding academic institutions. He will also oversee budgets for all Divisions and departments, with a combined annual expenditure totalling more than £1.3 billion.

Dr Prout’s responsibilities also include taking forward Oxford’s ambitious capital programme to enhance its research and teaching resources. He will guide the development of new academic buildings, the purchase of highly advanced equipment and the modernisation of existing facilities. Key projects will range from much-needed housing for graduates and staff to a new humanities building, new laboratories for interdisciplinary bioscience and continued expansion of facilities for innovation and commercial enterprise. His post also includes oversight of plans for University’s libraries and museums, and for the administrative service.

For Dr Prout, the role marks a return to the city where he grew up and later studied. His father, Prof CK Prout, was an inorganic chemist and Vice-Provost of Oriel College who was continuously associated with the University from when he came up at age 18 until his death at the age of 73. David Prout studied Modern History at Wadham College and went on to take a PhD in architectural history from the Courtauld Institute of Art.

In 2013 Dr Prout was asked to lead the Government’s £55 billion High Speed 2 programme. Phase 1 of HS2 from London to Birmingham received parliamentary approval in February and preparatory construction works are now under way.

Before taking on his role on the HS2 project, Dr Prout was a Director General at the Department for Communities and Local Government, responsible for all aspects of local government policy. Prior to that he worked at the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea as Executive Director with responsibility for planning and regeneration. He worked on housing estate regeneration and in particular on the deal to relocate the Design Museum to the old Commonwealth Institute in Kensington High Street – a project that was completed last year. He has held a range of other high profile civil service positions including Principal Private Secretary to the Deputy Prime Minister.

Dr Prout said: “I’m looking forward to meeting everyone and working with the academic community, colleges and University Administration Services to help make the best university in the world even better. The next few years will be tough, but by working together – and in particular with central government and the City Council – we can come through them stronger and better equipped to pursue the University’s brilliant academic mission.”

Professor Louise Richardson, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford, said: “I am delighted to have found in David Prout someone with a rare combination of success in the delivery of complex projects, experience working at local and national level, and a deep personal affinity with Oxford.”

Dr Prout will be building on the substantial achievements of Professor William James, who has overseen considerable growth and development during a challenging funding period for the University.

As Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Planning and Resources, Professor James has overseen major new developments in the University’s science park, in its medical facilities and the Radcliffe Observatory Quarter, including the Blavatnik School of Government. He will continue his research and teaching work at the Medical Sciences Division as Professor of Virology, with a particular research interest in preventing the replication of the HIV-1 virus.

Dr Prout is due to take up the position in September 2017.

UK Employment Tribunal Fees Deny Workers Access To Justice, Says Study

UK employment tribunal fees deny workers access to justice, says study


The cost of fees is deterring claims from low paid workers, finds study.


UK workers are being illegally denied access to justice, according to Oxford academics in a forthcoming article in the journal, Modern Law Review. Their conclusions support an ongoing legal challenge to the employment tribunal fees regime, heard by the Supreme Court this week.

In their article, Associate Professor Abigail Adams, from the Oxford Department of Economics, and Associate Professor Jeremias Prassl, from the Oxford Faculty of Law, argue that the 2013 Order introducing Employment Tribunal Fees is a ‘clear violation’ of long-established UK and EU law, as the cost of bringing a claim now outweighs the benefit of a potential win for many claimants. They describe the government’s introduction of the measures as ‘disproportionate’, especially when seen in the light of the government’s own policy goals.

Since 2013, fees of up to £1,200 (more than a month’s salary on the minimum wage) have been charged to bring a claim before the employment tribunals. The article notes that the effects of this reform have been ‘dramatic’ as within a year, claims dropped by over 70 per cent and have not recovered since. Dr Adams and Dr Prassl analyse official government data on claimant behaviour, including detailed records of award size and costs incurred. They find that up to half of workers with a high chance of winning if they pursued the case would expect to lose money. This helps explain why claims for relatively low amounts of money, such as those typically brought by low-income, zero-hours workers, have been hit especially hard by the policy, says the article.

With fees ranging from £390 to £1200, it does not make economic sense for many claimants to enforce their rights…fee levels should be reduced in line with the value of the claims

Dr Abigail Adams from the Department of Economics

Dr Prassl says: ‘The Employment Tribunal fees are a clear denial of access to the courts, which has been a cornerstone of our justice system since Magna Carta. The conclusions of the Prime Minister’s Taylor Review into Employment Rights will be meaningless without a credible way for workers to week justice.’

Dr Adams comments: ‘The average award for some employment claims, such as unauthorised deduction from wages, is as low as £600. With fees ranging from £390 to £1200, it does not make economic sense for many claimants to enforce their rights.’

The new fee regime was designed to lower tribunal costs, encourage early settlement, and deter vexatious claims said to waste employers’ resources. The Oxford academics found that the changes may be having the opposite effect. For example, unscrupulous employers are no longer willing to settle cases, knowing that in many instances it won’t be rational for workers to bring a claim. Based on their findings, they believe that the few genuinely vexatious litigants in the system are likely to the least deterred by the prospect of fees.

The academics conclude that if recent concerns about workers’ rights, from the Uber case and Sports Direct to the Prime Minister’s Taylor Review, are to change anything in practice, the tribunal fees regime must be struck down, repealed, or significantly revised.

‘Suffice it to say, at the very least, that fee levels should be reduced in line with the value of the claims, and greater scrutiny needs to be given to the timing of fee payments,’ Dr Adams concludes.

The article notes that the judicial review proceedings that followed the introduction of the new fees upheld the Fees Order because litigants could not show that any one claimant had been unable as opposed to unwilling to pay the fees.
Dr Prassl argues: ‘The lower courts’ approach was inappropriately narrow in its interpretation of English and European law: a right without a remedy is of little value.’

The academics say that the measures should have been scrutinised to see whether the introduction of fees violated the very essence of the right of access to a court or tribunal, and whether the measures were a proportionate way of achieving the government’s stated aims.

The paper, ‘Vexatious claims: Challenging the case for employment tribunal fees’, by Abi Adams and Jeremias Prassl will be published in Modern Law Review.

Meltwater Acquires Oxford Uni Spin-Out Wrapidity to Add AI to Media Monitoring Capabilities

Meltwater acquires Oxford Uni spin-out Wrapidity to add AI to media monitoring capabilities

Meltwater, the self-described ‘media intelligence’ company, has acquired Wrapidity, a U.K.-based AI startup that has built technology to automate the extraction of data from unstructured web-based content.

Terms of the deal remain undisclosed, including how much Oxford University, from where Wrapidity spun out in early 2015, will benefit, though I understand it only held a minor share in the company via its technology transfer arm. The startup had raised a very modest £200,000 to date.

“After evaluating over 20 companies globally in this space, the Meltwater team determined that Wrapidity is the strongest technology of its kind, complemented by an experienced engineering team led by co-founders Dr. Tim Furche, Dr. Giorgio Orsi and Dr. Giovanni Grasso,” says Meltwater in a statement.

In a call, I asked Dr. Tim Furche, Wrapidity’s CTO, why the startup had decided to sell so early. He told me that, in some ways, it doesn’t actually feel like that since the technology has been almost a decade in the making through its academic beginnings.

He also talked up the two companies’ shared vision, sounding genuinely excited, and cited both Meltwater’s customer reach and huge historical content data sets that can be used to improve and further develop Wrapidity’s hybrid AI technology.

Furche also tells me that he and Wrapidity’s other technical co-founders, Giovanni Grasso and Giorgio Orsi, are staying on with the company whilst retaining some ties to academia, and that the startup has moved into Meltwater’s Shack 15 co-working space in East London.

I also understand Georg Gottlob, Wrapidity’s scientific head, has joined Meltwater’s advisory board and remains Professor at the Oxford University Department of Computer Science and Professor at Vienna University.

Leon Shpilsky, Wrapidity’s CEO, initially planned to join Meltwater, but has since left amicably to take up a position in business development for Oxford Sciences Innovation PLC, an independent fund aimed at Oxford University spin-outs.

Meanwhile, the acquisition of Wrapidity comes just a few weeks after Meltwater raised $60 million in debt funding from Silicon Valley Bank, and Vector Capital, money it pegged for “strategic acquisitions”. At the time, founder and CEO Jorn Lyseggen talked up the potential to beef up the company’s data science, machine learning, and natural language processing capabilities by acquiring startups in the space that have “proven technology”.

“We see acquisitions as an integral part of our growth strategy,” he said in a statement. “We believe the next 24 months will see a high M&A activity in our space and we raised this capital to give us the firepower to take an active role in these processes”.

I’m told that since 2009 and not including today’s acquisition, Meltwater has acquired nine companies. Most recent was Encore Alert, a 500 Startup alumni that’s built social media alert technology powered by data science. We can now add Wrapidity to the list.

Conferences Set To Attract 10,000 Prospective Students and Teachers

Conferences set to attract 10,000 prospective students and teachers

St James' Park, Newcastle

More than 10,000 school students and their teachers are expected to turn out over the next two weeks as the latest series of Oxford and Cambridge Student Conferences hits the road.

Academic tutors, admissions staff and current students from the two universities will be on hand at seven locations across the UK, armed with the latest advice on courses, the application process and student life.

The conferences begin tomorrow in Edinburgh before taking in Merseyside, Newcastle, Surrey, Lisburn, Birmingham and Swansea in a roadshow designed to give students and teachers the most up-to-date information on life at two of the UK’s leading universities.

The conferences are free to attend and are aimed at students who have already completed GCSE exams or equivalent and are now undertaking further study.

Full details of the conferences and information on how to book your place can be found here.

Emma Hogg, a second-year Biomedical Sciences student at Oxford, will be helping out at the conference in Birmingham. She said: ‘The student conferences make Oxford and Cambridge accessible to everyone and are a great way to learn about the universities without having to travel very far at all. I attended the Birmingham conference while at school, which helped me decide to apply to Oxford to do Biomedical Sciences. I’m so glad I did.

‘I was initially a bit worried about applying to Oxford, because I’d heard a lot of myths and wasn’t sure if I would fit in. However, I’m now half way through my course and could not imagine being happier anywhere else. Studying at Oxford has helped me to develop both academically and personally.’

Harry Rawcliffe, a second-year Philosophy, Politics and Economics student at Oxford, added: ‘The north-west Oxford and Cambridge Student Conference in 2014 was the first event I went to when I was considering applying to study at Oxford or Cambridge. At that point it seemed very much a pipe dream for me – I had good grades and some of my teachers had encouraged me to think about it, but the whole thing seemed very much out of reach for me. This frame of mind quickly faded away when I got to the conference. What I soon discovered, to my own surprise, was just how “normal” the Oxford and Cambridge students at the conference were.

‘Applying to study at Oxford was without a doubt the best choice I have ever made, and I am taking part in this year’s Student Conferences as a student ambassador to show future Oxford and Cambridge students that I am what an Oxbridge student looks like.’

Dr Samina Khan, Director of Undergraduate Admissions and Outreach at Oxford University, said: ‘Oxford and Cambridge recruit students from across the UK, and we are well aware that the potential to be an excellent student is not restricted to those from a particular background. Holding conferences across the UK is just one demonstration of our commitment to working with schools and teachers in every nation to seek out academically talented students and encourage them to find out more about what’s available to them.’

Dr Sam Lucy, Director of Admissions for the Cambridge colleges, said: ‘There are so many brilliant students across the country, and we want to meet as many of them as possible. These conferences help us to find students with great academic potential and passion for their subject, and encourage them to think about applying to Cambridge and Oxford. Meeting current students who went to school here and getting friendly advice from staff really help participants to make informed decisions and boost their confidence.’

Oxford Marks Tenth Anniversary of European Research Council

Oxford marks tenth anniversary of European Research Council

ERC researcher


The tenth anniversary of the European Research Council (ERC) has been marked by a series of events and a video featuring some of Oxford’s recipients of ERC funding.

The ERC aims to encourage high quality research in Europe, and was established by the European Union in 2007. Since then, Oxford has been the number one university recipient of ERC awards across the whole of the EU and this success is testament to the quality of our world-leading researchers and the work they undertake.

Since the launch of the EU research and innovation programme Horizon 2020 in 2014, 73 Oxford University projects have received nearly 115 million euros from the ERC.

‘In the past ten years ERC grants have become the international benchmark of research excellence,’ said Alastair Buchan, Head of Brexit Strategy at Oxford University. ‘Our phenomenal success in winning these grants is testament to quality of our researchers and the ground-breaking work that they do.

‘Whilst we have grants in all domains, to date more than 61 grants have been awarded to our researchers in Social Sciences and Humanities. This is almost double the number awarded to the second most successful university and is a remarkable achievement. For many researchers in these disciplines, the ERC represents the only source of funding for their research and their success is therefore even more valued.’

In a video to mark the anniversary, a number of Oxford University academics have explained how ERC funding has been vital to their research. These academics include:

Professor Sally Shuttleworth of the Faculty of English Language and Literature, who has been funded by the ERC to carry out a large-scale project into diseases of modern life.

Professor Adrian Hill, Director of the Jenner Institute, who has received funding to look at the genetic basis of differences in response to vaccines.

Professor Lucie Cluver of the Department of Social Policy and Intervention who is ERC funded to investigate how to reduce child abuse and improve parenting for lower-middle income countries.

Professor Greger Larson of the University’s School of Archaeology, who has an ERC grant to study the origins of dogs, pigs and chickens.

This week, a number of events have been held to mark the anniversary at the Department for Computer Science. These included a lunchtime talk on Professor Shuttleworth’s Diseases of Modern Life project on 16 March, and TED-style talks from academics in the Social Sciences Division the same evening.

There are also events at the Department for Computer Science, Corpus Christi College, the School of Archaeology, and the Royal Institution in London.

More information on the anniversary and the role of the ERC is available here.

Oxford University Campaign Invites Visitors To ‘Grow Their Minds’ at the University’s Incredible Museums, Libraries and Gardens

Oxford University campaign invites visitors to ‘grow their minds’ at the University’s incredible museums, libraries and gardens

13 February 2017

University launches Mindgrowing campaign to reveal the unique discoveries that can be found at its amazing sites

The University of Oxford has launched an exciting campaign to encourage tourists and visitors to Oxford to discover its incredible cultural attractions. The University has some of the finest collections in the world, located in historic venues which are just a short stroll from one another – the Ashmolean Museum, Museum of Natural History, Pitt Rivers Museum, Museum of the History of Science, Bodleian Libraries and Botanic Garden. Entry to most sites is free of charge.

Oxford University’s museums, libraries and gardens offer an experience which is not only enjoyable and memorable, but enables visitors to tap into centuries of knowledge and scholarship at the oldest university in the English-speaking world.

The University’s new campaign celebrates the ‘mindgrowing’ nature of its museums, libraries and gardens – encouraging visitors to expand their minds and go on a journey of discovery through culture, science and natural history. Marvel at a fragment of a 4.55 billion-year-old meteorite at the Museum of Natural History and see how its outer crust is smooth and dark where it melted as it fell through the atmosphere. Study the blackboard used in 1931 in a lecture given by Albert Einstein – now preserved at the Museum of the History of Science – whose equations connect the age, size and density of the universe. Examine a Bronze Age Celtic war trumpet at the Pitt Rivers Museum, whose deep low notes could strike fear into enemies’ hearts. And feast your eyes on modern masterpieces and Anglo-Saxon treasures at the Ashmolean, such as the Crondall Hoard which includes the first coins produced in Britain after the departure of the Romans two centuries before.

The advertising campaign targets tourists and day visitors to Oxford, inviting them to spend a few hours or a full day discovering these attractions and exploring the beautiful city of Oxford by roaming from site to site.

Local residents are also encouraged to rediscover these amazing attractions on their doorstep. With most sites offering free entry and a huge range of events, they are the perfect destination for families and visitors of all ages, especially at half term.

‘This is the first time the University has launched a campaign to promote all its cultural attractions at once,’ said Dr Silke Ackermann, Director of the Museum of the History of Science. ‘We want visitors to explore and enjoy these unique sites and their eclectic collections; they really are a must-see on any visit to Oxford. The University’s museums, gardens and libraries have contributed to scholarship and inspired learning for centuries and are places where visitors, too, can grow their minds.’

The ‘Mindgrowing’ advertising campaign consists of outdoor and print advertising as well as online advertising and social media. The bright green posters – featuring illustrations of dinosaurs, books and Roman busts – can be seen across Oxford, from Park & Rides to the rail station, as well as in Marylebone and Paddington stations and the London underground. A free map showing the location of each site – together with suggestions for 2-hour, 4-hour and full-day visits – can be picked up in venues across Oxfordshire and at all seven sites.

The advertising, which uses quirky illustrations and witty headlines, encourages visitors to ‘Book a Day Out’, ‘Find Time’ and ‘Roam Rome’. The illustrations also feature on a range of merchandise, including pencils and tote bags, which can be purchased in the on-site shops.

The campaign, which runs from 30 January to 5 May, was developed by London-based creative agency Lovers working with creative consultants Jane Wentworth Associates.

For further information or images, please contact: Matt Pickles, Media Relations Manager, University of Oxford News Office , Tel: +44 (0)1865 280532,

Why Medical Device Company Launches FAIL in Europe

After many years in this industry, and having worked with senior leaders across the Medical Device and Life Science sectors, Nigel Job, CEO and Founder or Remtec Search and Selection has recently launched an eBook entitled ‘Why Medical Device Company Launches FAIL in Europe’. This book is a guide aimed at SMEs looking to enter the European market and will help you discover:


•             The 4 main barriers to your success in Europe – how to overcome them and avoid nasty surprises.

•             The one mission critical element that is simply the difference between success and failure.

•             Routes to market that could expedite and cement your European presence and growth potential.

•             Essential Do’s and Don’ts for your European strategy.


To gain access to the ebook Why Medical Devices Company Launches FAIL in Europe simply click on this link

New £100 Million Rosalind Franklin Research Institute To Improve Health Through Physical Science Innovation

New £100 million Rosalind Franklin research institute to improve health through physical science innovation

Rosalind Franklin Research Institute

Oxford University scientists are to play a key role in a new, government-funded research facility, the Rosalind Franklin Institute (RFI).

Backed by over £100 million of investment, the RFI will be a national centre of excellence in technology development and innovation. Physical scientists, engineers and life scientists will work together to develop new techniques and instrumentation and apply them to key challenges in the health and life sciences – leading to improved understanding of disease, faster discovery of new treatments for chronic conditions that affect millions of people worldwide, new jobs, and long-term economic growth.

Managed by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the facility will focus initially on the development of next-generation imaging methods (including techniques that will allow dynamic, real-time imaging of molecular processes or chemical reactions – the microscopy equivalent of a shift from a photograph to a video) and on new chemical methods and strategies for drug discovery.

The RFI will draw on expertise from across the UK. Its central hub will be based at Harwell in Oxfordshire, with linked sites at partner universities including Cambridge, Edinburgh, Manchester, Oxford, Imperial College, King’s College London, and University College London.

The development of the RFI has been led by Professor Ian Walmsley, Pro-Vice Chancellor at the University of Oxford. Speaking on the Institute’s key purpose and the University’s role in its creation, he said: ‘This is a new joint venture between some of the UK’s leading universities and key partners in industry and Research Councils.

‘The aim is to speed up the applications of cutting edge physical science insights, methods and techniques into life sciences by providing an interface between research programmes at the forefront of these areas, co-located at the Hub and connected, dynamically, to the wider UK research base.

‘We anticipate innovative new businesses will grow from this effort over time, as the Institute will engage with a range of key industries from its inception. The collaborative structure allows the RFI to make the most of interactions and draw on a wide range of existing research excellence from across the UK.’

The Institute is named after Rosalind Franklin, the pioneering scientist whose work on the use of X-rays to study biological structures played a crucial role in the discovery of the structure of DNA, the famous ‘double helix’.

Professor Dame Carol Robinson, Professor of Physical Chemistry at the University of Oxford, who is leading the RFI’s biological mass spectrometry theme and is, herself, a previous recipient of the Royal Society’s Rosalind Franklin Award (2004), said: ‘It is fitting that this new Institute bears Rosalind Franklin’s name. She achieved so much in a relatively short life and without her work many of the advances that have taken place since would not have come about. Work in the Institute will include development of the next-generation of physical tools including mass spectrometry, instruments for X-ray science and for advanced microscopy – fields directly descended from her research interests.’

Professor Sir John Bell, Regius Professor of Medicine at the University of Oxford, and a key architect of the RFI vision, said: ‘The Life Sciences sector is widely recognised as a key part of the UK economy, employing over 220,000 people and contributing to our health and wellbeing. Less well known is that many of the key life sciences breakthroughs – from unravelling the structure of DNA to MRI scanning and sequencing of the human genome – were only possible due to earlier innovations in the physical sciences and engineering. By supporting collaboration, the RFI will help to underpin and accelerate the next wave of physical sciences innovation and its application to health and life sciences – and keep the UK at the forefront of research.’

The RFI will contribute directly to the delivery of the EPSRC’s ‘Healthy Nation’ prosperity outcome, its Healthcare Technologies programme, and to the Technology Touching Life initiative, which spans three research councils (BBSRC, EPSRC and MRC) and seeks to foster interdisciplinary technology development research across the engineering, physical and life sciences.

Speaking on the value and long-term potential of the RFI, Chair of the Research Councils and EPSRC Chief Executive, Professor Philip Nelson said; ‘The UK is currently in a world leading position when it comes to developing new medical treatments and technologies in the life sciences. However, other countries are alive to the potential and are already investing heavily. The Rosalind Franklin Institute will help secure the country as one of the best places in the world to research, discover, and innovate.’

Blood Ties Fuel Cooperation Among Species, Not Survival Instinct

Blood ties fuel cooperation among species, not survival instinct

White Fronted Bee Eaters are a bird species who breed cooperatively, working together to survive in harsh environments, like the desert.

Cooperative breeding, when adults in a group team up to care for offspring, is not a survival strategy for animals living in extreme environments. It is instead a natural result of monogamous relationships reinforcing stronger genetic bonds in family groups. Siblings with full biological ties are more likely than others to stay with their family and help day to day, a new Oxford University study has found.

Previous research showed that animals that breed and live in extended family groups are more likely to live in harsher climates, such as deserts, than those who breakaway and go it alone. Without any evidence for why this happens, scientists drew the intuitive conclusion that team thinking was at play, and larger family structures were formed as a survival strategy. However, the new findings from Oxford’s Department of Zoology have turned these previous conclusions on their head, proving that communal family dynamics are often built before animals enter difficult climates, and that the two are actually not related.

From observing 4,707 bird species, the team collated and analysed data to test competing explanations for how much environmental conditions influence and drive species’ decision to live communally. These potential explanations included: entering harsh environments in a large family group offers stronger chances of survival than as an individual;  there is in fact no relationship between the two at all; and that a third variable may be at play, such as female polyandry, when the mother has multiple partners.

The study found that parental relationships – specifically whether they were polyandrous or monogamous  – plays a key role in whether animal families stay together as a group or not.

A cooperative living structure was more likely to be favoured when both parental genes were shared by siblings, a trait known as “kin selection.” Bolstered by this dynamic the groups are then able to enter difficult climates and set up home in new territories in which they may not have been able to survive alone.

The research was conducted in partnership with the University of Lund, Sweden, Columbia University, USA and Washington University, St Louis, USA. The full study features in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution.

Professor Ashleigh Griffin, Research Fellow in the Department of Zoology and co-author of the study, said: “For decades, biologists have noted that animals living in harsh desert environments often live in cooperative groups. This seems to make intuitive sense – when times are hard, it may take teamwork to survive. We tested this hypothesis in an analysis of over 2,000 species of birds, looking at whether species were cooperative and where they lived. Surprisingly, we found no evidence to support the widely held assumption that species in the desert were more likely to become cooperative. Instead, cooperation evolves as a result of close genetic bonds in family groups. These cooperative family groups are then better able to invade new territory, where the climate is too harsh for uncooperative, solitary species to survive.”

While survival is not the reason that animals choose to breed cooperatively, it is a definite advantage in extreme environments like the desert. Species that are known for their familial helping behaviour, such as starlings and meerkats, can live anywhere. Non-cooperative species, such as puffins and penguins, tend to only be found in specific environments.

Professor Griffin added: “Cooperative species are more effective pioneers, able to exploit harsh environments that are too tough for most other species that raise offspring on their own or in pairs.”

Oxford’s Billion-Dollar Startups

Oxford’s billion-dollar startups

Following research showing Oxford University has produced more founders of billion-dollar startups than any other institution in Europe, Oxford University Innovation’s Gregg Bayes-Brown takes a closer look at the founders, their ties to Oxford, and the companies they’ve launched.

In the tech world, few phrases get people more excited than “unicorn”. Used to describe startups valued at over a billion dollars, these are companies backed by large amounts of investment cash and – ideally – destined for big things.

Featuring some of the biggest names in tech, such as Uber, SpaceX, and Airbnb, developing the sort of positive momentum of a unicorn is what startup dreams are made of. However, with just over 200 in existence, like the eponymous mythological beast, unicorn startups are a rarely spotted, unless you happen to live in Silicon Valley… or Oxford University.

The University is highlighted in recent research by Sage UK as the top university in Europe for generating founders of unicorn startups, which include social networks, financial technology firms, augmented reality app developers, and more. Here, we look at those founders, their link to Oxford, and the companies they have gone on to create.

Reid Hoffman – LinkedIn

Californian-born Hoffman came to Oxford after graduating from Stanford in 1990, earning his Masters in Philosophy as a Marshall Scholar linked to Wolfson College. Originally, Hoffman had planned for a life inside academia, but would soon found himself drawn to the life of an entrepreneur: “When I graduated from Stanford my plan was to become a professor and public intellectual. That is not about quoting Kant. It’s about holding up a lens to society and asking ‘who are we?’ and ‘who should we be, as individuals and a society?’ But I realised academics write books that 50 or 60 people read and I wanted more impact.”

He joined Apple after graduating from Oxford where he worked on eWorld, an early precursor to the social networks we see today, before attempting his own venture, SocialNet, which looked to partner people through similar hobbies and interests. An idea ahead of its time, Hoffman would make a detour through PayPal, joining as COO and remaining with the company until it was acquired in 2002 for $1.5bn, before coming back to social networking later the same year when he launched LinkedIn.

Today, the network has around 400 million members, and was bought last year by Microsoft for $26 billion – a massive increase on its pre-acquisition valuation of $1.05bn.

Ivan Griffin – BenevolentAI

A New College graduate and Captain of the Men’s Blues tennis team, Griffin was awarded his Masters and D.Phil in Neuroscience from Oxford. Upon graduating, he held a number of investment roles, including technology commercialisation firm IP Group, which supports early stage technology companies spun out of universities, including Oxford, before co-founding BenevolentAI in 2013.

BenevolentAI uses artificial intelligence to crunch through scientific papers, medical databases, and chemical libraries on the hunt for potential drug molecules hidden in the data, which it then develops into medicines. The company has already identified several promising candidates for a range of diseases, is collaborating with some large Pharmaceutical companies such as Janssen, and has attracted $100m in equity investment, bringing the valuation for this unicorn to $1.85bn.


Samir Desai and James Meekings – Funding Circle

In typical Oxford fashion, the story behind Funding Circle – one of the most successful British fintech stories this decade – started in an Oxford pub. James Meekings (pictured, centre) and Samir Desai (pictured, left), both studying Economics and Management at the time, had a chance run in with future co-founder Andrew Mullinger and would become firm friends. This friendship would lead to them throwing caution to the wind in 2009 when they all quit their jobs to launch Funding Circle.

The platform is an online marketplace for business loans, connecting small-to-medium enterprises with potential investors. This peer-to-peer model allows businesses to borrow from a diverse range of supporters, spreading risk for the lenders and getting lower interest rates for the borrowers. Funding Circle broke the billion barrier in 2015, and recently added $100m to bring its full funding support to $413m.


Michael Gould – Anaplan

Receiving his BA in Mathematics and MSc in Computation from Oxford’s Wadham College by the start of the 1990s, it would be 16 years before Michael Gould came up with an idea that he could take from a 200-year old stone granary in Yorkshire all the way to Silicon Valley.

Founded in 2006, Anaplan offers cloud-based business modelling and sales planning, developed in response to the dominance of IBM, Oracle, SAP, and Microsoft in the business planning sector. Anaplan broke the billion barrier in 2016 after closing its latest fundraising round, bringing it to a total of $240m raised from venture capitalists.

One of the older founders on this list, Gould can see the importance in developing the next generation of startup founders: “There is today a critical need to encourage tech talent, especially computer programming, from school age upwards (girls and boys!). The demand in this sector is only going to increase as other jobs are threatened by AI/automation. The UK is well placed to continue to grow as a big global player if we invest.”


Allie Morse – Jumia

An alumna of Oriel College, Morse came to Oxford in 2010, where she attained a Masters in Global Politics and Gender. Following her studies, Morse would found online real estate marketplace Lamudi, part of Africa Internet Group, a cluster of startup companies backed by Germany-based venture capitalist Rocket Internet.

Africa Internet Group, now known as Jumia, has secured $469.25m since its launch and is the first African unicorn startup.


Jessica Butcher – Blippar

Harnessing the same sort of technology that made Pokemon Go a raging success in 2016, Blippar is drawing on augmented reality and image-recognition technology to give users to ability to unlock data about their surroundings. Simply point your phone at something like a watch, and you’ll be given all sorts of watch-based information and trivia, a map to your nearest watch repair shop, and a comparison guide to tell if your watch is a genuine Rolex, or a genuine fake.

A graduate of Worcester College, Blippar co-founder Jessica Butcher studied Ancient and Modern History at Oxford until she graduated in 1999. In an interview with the Financial Times, she said the CV she built up in the years between graduation and founding Blippar used to be a source of embarrassment because of the “scrappy array” of roles she held down in her twenties and early thirties. However, today she sees it as a source of pride – and it reflects the range of contacts and expertise she needed to build up to make Blippar successful.

For those aspiring to walk a similar path to Jessica, she said that key is to invest in your network as heavily as possible, “for advice (both formal and informal), for potential business partners, for potential clients, and for your own continual self-growth. It is important for aspiring entrepreneurs to build up an informal advisory board of sorts, for themselves, not just their potential businesses! Share your ideas widely to gain validation (or otherwise!). You don’t need to play your cards too close to your chest.”

Launched in 2011, Blippar hasn’t yet been completely rolled out, but has already raised $99m from venture capital and is valued at $1.5bn.


Kevin Hartz – Eventbrite

A favourite for both events management teams and professional gatecrashers (or ‘liggers’, according to the Guardian) everywhere, Kevin Hartz co-founded event technology platform Eventbrite back in 2006. The company has since had $196.8m poured into it by venture capital, grown to be the international standard platform for arranging events online, and is worth $1.06bn.

Hartz studied his Masters in History at University College between 1992 and 1993, continuing on his BA in History from Stanford University. He stepped down from the CEO chair at Eventbrite last year, but remains Chairman at the startup. He is also a Partner at Founders Fund, a $2bn venture fund which was one of the first backers of Facebook and SpaceX, where he now works full time.


Oxford University has been creating unicorns of its own lately. Oxford Nanopore, which is developing a handheld DNA sequencer, achieved unicorn status in 2015. Meanwhile, immunotherapy company Adaptimmune, based on Oxford IP, achieved unicorn status when it held its IPO. Immunocore, the sister company of Adaptimmune, held the largest ever biotech fundraising last year, and isn’t far off being named a unicorn too. To keep up to date with our current and future unicorns, follow OUI on Twitter and LinkedIn.

A special thank you to Sage UK for providing their research for this article. You can find the full research here:

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