10 outstanding start-ups from Oxford to watch

9 Nov 2018

Oxford. Image: © Pawel/Stock.adobe.com

Oxford is a hotbed of AI, deep tech, space and medtech talent, capitalising on the university city’s prowess and heritage in research and science.

Home to the oldest university in the English-speaking world, the University of Oxford, the city, and its surrounding towns and villages are home to some of the biggest global bets on science and technology for the 21st century.

An architectural gem, the English city has a broad economic base that includes education, publishing, IT and biotech.

Around 25,600 people are employed in digital tech jobs and, in terms of economic impact, the value of goods and services produced from the city and region exceeds £1.1bn a year.

According to TechNation 2018, the entrepreneurial ecosystem is flourishing. For example, Oxford University Innovation this year completed the 150th spin-out from Oxford University with augmented reality (AR) company 6Degrees. In addition, the Oxford Foundry, an entrepreneurial hub at the heart of Oxford University, was opened by Apple CEO Tim Cook in October 2017. The venue aims to create a community of innovation across the university, inspiring and supporting its 23,000 students to develop entrepreneurial skills or to create and scale commercial ventures.

Here are the start-ups to watch in the year ahead.

Bodle Technologies

Bodle Technologies is a University of Oxford spin-out that is developing a new type of reflective display technology that promises to use a lot less power. Founded by Prof Harish Bhaskaran, Dr Peiman Hosseini and David Fyfe, the company raised £6m in Series A funding earlier this year from Parkwalk Advisors, Woodford Patient Capital Trust, Oxford Sciences Innovation and Oxford Technology Management.


Another University of Oxford spin-out, Diffblue has applied AI to software development in such a way that it is able to build an exact mathematical model of any codebase with just a few examples, providing a deeper semantic understanding of what a computer program is capable of. Founded by Daniel Kroening in 2016, Diffblue has raised £17m in funding from Goldman Sachs along with Oxford University Innovation, Oxford Sciences Innovation and Oxford Investment Consultants.

Evox Therapeutics

Evox Therapeutics is engineering exosomes, the body’s natural vesicular delivery system, to enable a wide variety of drugs to reach previously inaccessible tissues and compartments. Co-founded by Dr Per Lundin, Prof Matthew Wood and Dr Samir El-Andaloussi, it is developing its own proprietary pipeline of exosome-based therapeutics for the treatment of rare, life-threatening diseases. In September, it raised £35m in a Series B financing round with investors including Redmile Group, GV and Cowen Healthcare Investments. Evox had previously secured £10m as part of a Series A seed financing from Oxford Sciences Innovation.


Exscientia is at the forefront of AI-driven drug discovery and design. By fusing the power of AI with the discovery experience of seasoned drug-hunters, Exscientia is automating drug design, surpassing conventional approaches. Founded in 2012, Exscientia is led by CEO Andrew Hopkins and raised €15m last year in a round led by Evotec.


Oxbotica is developing the next generation of autonomous vehicles, creating the software that powers them. Founded in 2014 by Ingmar Posner and Paul Newman, the company recently struck a deal with Addison Lee to see its fleet of 4,800 vehicles in London transition to feature more autonomous vehicle technology by 2021. Oxbotica has raised £22.6m in funding to date, including a £14m round in September.

Oxford Space Systems

Oxford Space Systems builds satellites, including deployable antennas and structures, that are lighter, less complex and cost less than those that are currently available. In June, the company, which was founded in 2013 by Mike Lawton, raised an additional £6.7m in funding, bringing the total amount raised to £11.6m.

Oxford VR

Oxford VR is a spin-out from Oxford University built on the work of Prof Daniel Freeman who has been developing effective VR-based mental health treatments for 15 years. Founded in 2016, the company is led by CEO Barnaby Perks. It raised £3.2m in September from investors Oxford Sciences Innovation, University of Oxford, Force Over Mass Capital, RT Capital Management and GT Healthcare Capital Partners.


Founded in 2012, Rezatec applies data science to satellite imagery and geospatial data to deliver cloud-based analytics to its global customers. Led by CEO Patrick Newton, the company has raised $4.2m in three investment rounds to date.


Sitryx is a biopharmaceutical company co-founded by a leading academic at Trinity College Dublin, Luke O’Neill, along with Houman Ashrafian, Jeff Rathmell, Michael Rosenblum, Jonathan Powell and Paul Peter Tak. Siliconrepublic.com reported recently how the Oxford-based start-up raised $30m in a Series A funding round. Sitryx raised the funding from a syndicate of specialist international healthcare investors co-led by SV Health Investors and Sofinnova Partners, and that also included Longwood Fund and the global healthcare company GSK. The investment will be used to develop disease-modifying therapies in immuno-oncology and immuno-inflammation.


Woman with brown hair and glasses chatting with man in blue jumper with red hair.

Vaccitech founders Prof Sarah Gilbert and Prof Adrian Hill. Image: John Cairns

Vaccitech is focused on developing a universal flu vaccine, among a number of novel drug products. A spin-out from the University of Oxford’s Jenner Institute, it was founded in 2016 by Prof Adrian Hill and Prof Sarah Gilbert. Earlier this year, the company raised £20m in a funding round from Sequoia Capital, GV, Oxford Sciences Innovation and Neptune Investment Management.

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Updated, 8.15pm, 10 November 2018: This article was updated to remove a video incorrectly associated with Vaccitech.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years