Home | News & Insights | 2020 | New data shows Cambridge technology companies accelerated their hiring last year, despite the uncertainties of the Brexit debates

New data shows Cambridge technology companies accelerated their hiring last year, despite the uncertainties of the Brexit debates


New data from the Centre for Business Research (CBR) in the University of Cambridge, commissioned by Cambridge Ahead, shows significant growth in the region. Employment has risen by +5.6%. These corporate figures contrast with the performance of the UK economy as a whole, where employment grew by just 0.7% (ONS’ BRES).

This data shines a spotlight on the importance of the need for better alignment between datasets, and illustrates the urgent and continued need to address the planning challenges and opportunities presented by this type of accelerated growth.

Key findings from the CBR’s data for year to April 2019 include:

  • The employment growth of companies based in the Cambridge region continued at very high levels, despite the uncertainties surrounding the 31 March 2019 Brexit deadline. In the 12 months to April 2019, turnover rose by +7.2% and employment by +5.6% (2018: +8.7% and +4.0%).
  • The average annual increase in turnover and employment in the Cambridge region over the last 6 years has been +9.4% pa and +6.8% pa.
  • Sectorally, the growth of employment in the knowledge intensive sectors has been most marked, with employment up +8.8%, compared to +4.8% last year, taking the total number of people employed by the 5,148 Cambridge-based technology-based companies to over 69,000.
  • Growth in the rest of Cambridgeshire firms was positive, particularly in Peterborough, where turnover and employment both grew by 5.8%, elsewhere there was still positive growth, but this showed signs of being slower than over the last 3 years.

These statistics are higher than official estimates from the ONS. As recommended by the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Independent Economic Review (CPIER), Cambridge Ahead’s detailed discussions are ongoing with the ONS to assess the differences between respective datasets. These levels of growth are also stronger than was foreseen in the CPIER and reinforce the urgency of its recommendations to seek ways in which investment in infrastructure and housing provision can better match the pace of economic growth being experienced in the region.

Every year since 2010, the Centre for Business Research (CBR) in the University of Cambridge has tracked the growth of the Greater Cambridge economy in great detail at regional and local authority district level. It does this by aggregating the annual accounts of all the 25,000 companies based in the region to provide global turnover and employment data. It also tracks the growth of employment in the 33 non-corporate research and scientific institutes in the Cambridge region.

Additional highlights by sector include:

  • Notable rises occurring in the largest technology sector, Information Technology and Telecoms (+16.0% employment), where, alongside steady high growth in many of the larger companies, such as Arm, Darktrace and Amazon’s EVI Technologies, Aveva acquired control of Schneider Electric’s Software Division, bringing a further 1,724 staff; without this, the overall growth in IT&T employment would still have been +9.5%.
  • Life sciencesgrew strongly (+8.4%), with broadly based expansion, and also the continued increase in AstraZeneca employees coming into the region.
  • Employment in the non-corporate research and scientific institutes grew by 2.1% in the same period, bringing the total number of employees in the knowledge intensive sectors in the Cambridge region to over 105,000.
  • Over the last 6 years, the average annual increase in knowledge-intensive company turnover and employment has been +10.9% pa and +6.9% pa.
  • Growth in other sectors in the region in the last year was +6.6% turnover and +4.5% employment, of which construction and utilities was the most rapid at +7.8% and +7.5%. A major factor here was the recovery of Kier Group, following its refinancing. In the previous year, employment in construction and utilities had fallen by 3.5%.

Commenting on the data, which is funded annually by Cambridge Ahead, Matthew Bullock, Vice-Chairman of Cambridge Ahead and Master Emeritus of St Edmund’s College, Cambridge, said: “The acceleration of knowledge intensive employment through the uncertainties of the Brexit debates is striking. Cambridge’s economic contribution is a matter of national significance, and much of the economic growth that we are seeing here would be lost to the UK if it were not happening in the Cambridge area. It is therefore essential that central and local government work together urgently to track this growth and increase transport and housing capacity in greater Cambridge. If this is not done, acute stresses in congestion and house prices and rents will act as a brake on future growth, to the detriment of the local area and the country as a whole.” 

Cambridge Cluster Insights is sponsored by Arm, Marshall of Cambridge, and the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority.

“This new report shines a light on Cambridge’s growing position as a dynamic and thriving hub for technology and business,” said Graham Budd, President and COO, Arm. “As this continues, driven in part by businesses like Arm, maintaining and improving quality of life for our people is key. The work Cambridge Ahead is doing to promote sustainable economic growth in the region is an important part of this.”

James Palmer, Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough and leader of the Combined Authority added: “This is great news for our regional economy, and is another clear demonstration of the findings of our CPIER: that Cambridge is genuinely world leading in in the life science and technology industries, and a significant contributor to the UK economy as a whole. We at the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority are dedicated to providing the training opportunities for local people to fill these jobs and benefit from the growing economy.

“However, we must not be complacent. The CPIER also showed that without investments in infrastructure the growth we currently see will reverse within the next 10 years. This means we must move forward at pace with our Local Transport Strategy and our plans for the Cambridgeshire Autonomous Metro. This will provide the platform for growth in homes and jobs and tackle the congestion which threatens to throttle economic growth in our area.”

The current dataset, showing all Cambridge-based companies, can be viewed via the Cambridge Cluster Insights tab here. Cambridge Cluster Insights is an interactive resource, which allows businesses and individuals to examine individual company data as well as identify where growth is taking place around them.


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Sarah Brereton, Director, Limewash
07796 583 223

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