The Business Ecosystem

The Business Ecosystem

Key facts:

  • Cambridge is Europe’s largest technology cluster.
  • Around 59,000 people are employed by the more than 4,300 Knowledge-Intensive (KI) firms within 20 miles. of the centre, and these have grown employment by 7.4% per annum since 2011.
  • The proportion of local company employment engaged in knowledge-intensive activities is exceptional at 30%, compared with a 12% national average.
  • Over 21,000 Cambridge-registered companies generate £30bn in revenue.
  • Fifteen Cambridge companies have achieved a market capitalisation of more than $1bn*.
  • Cambridge has nearly 9 times the number of patents per head of the average of the next 9 highest cities in the UK.
  • Cambridge unemployment is a quarter of the national average and the city has the third-highest employment growth in the country (15.7% between 2004-2013).

Abcam, ARM, HP Autonomy, AVEVA, blinkx, CAT, Chiroscience, CSR, Domino Printing Sciences, Ionica, Marshall of Cambridge, Prometic, Solexa, Virata, Xaar.

Science & Business Parks

Napp building Cambridge Science Park

Napp Pharmaceuticals building in Cambridge Science Park (Image: Napp)

The first ‘hi-tech’ company, Cambridge Consultants, was founded in 1960. But the physical ecosystem really evolved in 1970 when Trinity College established the Cambridge Science Park – now the UK’s oldest and most prestigious science park – and within this the cluster of hi-tech companies began to grow rapidly. Whilst 39 new companies were formed between 1960 and 1969, in the 1970s, 137 were formed.

An important arrival was Napp Pharmaceuticals (member of CA) which moved into its iconic building in 1983. During the decade 1980-1989 around 675 technology companies were set up in and around Cambridge. By 1990, a new sector – biotech – was emerging and company formations had reached an average of two per week.

Other science, technology and business parks have followed. Here is a list of the top Science and Business parks / campuses around Cambridge (although there are now over 30 within and surrounding Cambridge – please see this interactive map plus one showing the biopharma cluster in and around the city.

Science/Business Park
Babraham Research Campus
Cambridge Biomedical Campus
Cambridge Business Park
Cambridge Research Park
Cambridge Science Park
Capital Park
Chesterford Research Park
Granta Park
ideaSpace
Peterhouse Technology Park
St John’s Innovation Centre
University of Cambridge West Cambridge site
Vision Park
Wellcome Trust Genome Campus


Together these sites are integral to the maintenance of the cluster of innovative, high-technology companies and organisations. And they continue to grow. The Cambridge Biomedical Campus is a hive of activity as construction continues (see
map) on Astra Zeneca’s new global and research headquarters for 2,000 staff, due to open in 2016, and the new, purpose-built Papworth Hospital will be completed and open in 2018. See this report on the Cambridge biopharma cluster by our member, Bidwells. Meanwhile the West Cambridge site has more construction underway with a vision to be a world-class research and development environment.

Of course not all the key companies and organisation are sited within the parks and campuses, which are away from the city centre. Some, such as Raspberry Pi and Spotify are located near the centre. We are also seeing a mini-cluster of companies developing near the railway station in the CB1 district, the area around which is undergoing huge re-development, and this includes Microsoft, Thales and AlertMe plus vital service industry companies such as legal firms and consultancies. Apple and AstraZeneca are joining this mini-cluster by opening satellite offices shortly.

Companies located in Cambridge

This thriving entrepreneurial environment and concentration of people focused on science and engineering is attracting international businesses to invest in the area. More than 25 of the world’s largest corporations have established operations in Cambridge, including Amazon, Apple, HP, Illumina, Microsoft (Research), Sanofi, Siemens and Qualcomm.

The high-tech, life science and engineering firms located in Cambridge make for an impressive list and include Abcam, Astra Zeneca…†, ARM…, AVEVA, Bango, Cambridge Consultants, Cambridge Life Sciences, Qualcomm (formerly CSR Cambridge Silicon Radio), Domino Printing Sciences…†, Jagex…†, Marshall of Cambridge, NAPP Pharmaceuticals…†, RealVNC, Sagentia, Sepura, Ubisense, and The Technology Partnership (TTP) ….

Arm chips

Of these, ARM is the jewel in the crown with a market capitalisation of £16 billion. As the world’s leading semiconductor intellectual property supplier, it is ranked by Forbes as the 5th most innovative company in the world. Over 95% of all mobile phones, 80% of digital cameras, most new cars globally, and 35% of all electronic devices contain ARM processor-based chips. Some 64bn ARM-based processors have been shipped worldwide and 125 ARM processors are shipped every second.

Key industry sectors of Cambridge

But ‘Tech’ is a very broad term that covers several sectors. Cambridge can be said to have nine key industry sectors that are contributing to the incredible economic growth of the city. The sectors are Consumer, Cleantech, Life Sciences, Non-corporate KI, Materials, Tech consultancies, Engineering, Agritech, and ICT. View a summary of Cambridge organisations in these sectors whose ideas are changing the world.

The Cambridge Cluster Map

The Cambridge Cluster Map is a big data resource highlighting the data on the cluster of businesses located within 20 miles of Cambridge, UK. It is a free-to-access online resource developed by Cambridge Ahead and shows the vibrancy of the Cambridge technology and life science cluster. It can be visited at www.camclustermap.com. Read more about the map.

Selling Cambridge to the World

A development in 2015, in which Cambridge Ahead was instrumental, was the creation of a Development Office for Cambridge within Cambridge Network. The office has a mission to promote Cambridge business to the rest of the world and will enable the city to successfully compete for global investment. Please see Information for Investors & Start-ups on the Cambridge Network site.

* Recent research by Cambridge Ahead and Cambridge Judge Business School has shown that the KI sector is much larger than the 1,500 companies previously thought. See a short summary slidedeck of the results.

…† Member of Cambridge Ahead