The Cambridge Phenomenon

The Cambridge Phenomenon

Cambridge has developed an outstanding record of business success, based on a symbiotic relationship between a world-leading University and one of Europe’s top technology clusters. Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Crick and Watson, and Stephen Hawking are some of the most famous of Cambridge’s scientists whose ideas have changed the world. Our scientists continue to make startling new discoveries and it is their work, when commercialised, which is behind many of Cambridge’s successes and growth.

In 1960, the first of a vibrant community of entrepreneurial companies was founded by two Cambridge graduates to ‘put the brains of Cambridge University at disposal of the problems of British industry’. Cambridge Consultants was the catalyst for what is arguably Europe’s leading technology cluster. Such has been its growth, the term Cambridge Phenomenon is used widely to describe the incredible explosion of technology, life science, clean technology, agri-tech and service companies that has occurred in the city since then. See 50 Fascinating Facts about Cambridge technology to really understand the incredible scientific and engineering developments that have come out of the city.

Arm chip

Image: ARM Plc

Several external factors drove the growth of the cluster: high-technology companies had excellent growth potential, industry was increasingly looking to universities for technological advances, and universities were also keen to link with business, due to the need to find alternative sources of finance as government funding dwindled. There was also a developing ecosystem of facilities and service providers to support the growing companies. This evolved dramatically in the late 1990s with the establishment of two major new networks – ERBI (now One Nucleus) and Cambridge Network. Another factor is Cambridge’s convenient proximity to London.

By the middle of the 2000s, a flourishing entrepreneurial ecosystem had evolved. Cambridge Enterprise was established to act as a focus for start-up support activities and the Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning was launched to draw together and expand the range of practically-focused entrepreneurship training programmes. The latter has now been incorporated into the Cambridge Judge Business School Entrepreneurship Centre. Organisations such as these, as well as those such as the student-led Cambridge University Entrepreneurs (CUE) society, have worked to create a period which has seen a marked increase in entrepreneurship and innovation in the city. See more on entrepreneurship in the city.

Such is the city’s success that it has become a magnet for highly qualified engineers, scientists, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and business people, and for companies looking for the perfect location to start up in or move to. And it is this growth which presents the city with perhaps its greatest challenge – how it can continue to grow and enjoy its extraordinary success unless vital investment in infrastructure such as housing and transport occurs, but without spoiling its unique nature. Herein lies the raison d’être of Cambridge Ahead.

† Member of Cambridge Ahead