A recent article in The Telegraph, explored the many qualities of Cambridge and how it has become a huge success story in the technology arena.
Read on to find why Cambridge is one of the finest places to work and live – a city of incredible career opportunities:
Is Cambridge the UK’s most successful city?
Elizabeth Anderson, The Telegraph, 7th March 2015
Home to one of the world’s best universities, beautiful scenery and some of the finest examples of Gothic architecture, Cambridge has long had a reputation as one of the UK’s most-loved cities. Its charm and laid back pace appeal to people looking for both a decent quality of life and an area with exciting career opportunities.
Compared to London, the home of many digital start-ups, Cambridge has remained relatively under the radar, quietly letting the capital grab the attention when it comes to tech innovation.
But Cambridge has become the city to watch. The group of technology and bioscience companies in the city is now one of Europe’s most successful and best known clusters of its kind.
David Cameron recently announced a long-term £12bn economic plan for the East, saying that Cambridge is key to keeping Britain in the global economic race. Drugs giant AstraZeneca is currently planning a £330m global research headquarters on the Cambridge Biomedical Campus in the south of the city.
In some ways, Cambridge has been a victim of its own success. Government investment in early stage start-ups has often been lost as the companies have been unable to grow and instead have ended up being bought by overseas investors. But the city’s officials say this is changing.
Cambridge Innovation Capital is one new investment fund that has launched in the past year to provide finance for firms in the “Cambridge cluster”, home to around 2,000 businesses with 57,000 staff.
“Seed funding is really well served here,” says Victor Christou, the fund’s senior investment director. “But there is a view that people have to leave the cluster to get further funding. We want to keep people here. People in Cambridge are very tech-savvy and there’s lots of talent here that doesn’t exist in many other places.”
Twenty years ago, there were no billion-dollar companies in Cambridge. But in the past two decades it has become a hotbed for firms of that size, with 14 created, including chip designer ARM, software firm Autonomy and technology group Aveva.
The recent boom is due to three factors, says Charles Cotton, co-author of the book The Cambridge Phenomenon. First came a cultural shift in views about commerce when academics at Cambridge University were allowed to pursue non-academic roles, with many turning to entrepreneurship.
Second, the dotcom crash and its recovery changed perceptions about fear of failure and entrepreneurs started taking greater risks.
Finally, the “Cambridge Spirit” – with people in the cluster willing to share knowledge – has created a unique culture defined by generosity and “dogged determination”, says Cotton.
“The environment here is electric,” says Nitzan Rosenfeld, founder of clinical cancer genomics company Inivata. “Even before my company developed a good reputation, I had lots of applications for jobs because people just wanted to come to Cambridge.”
Inivata focuses on improving cancer testing and treatment, and was spun out of Cancer Research UK’s Cambridge operations last year and raised £4m in a funding round in September. The company is developing technology that tracks fragments of DNA shed by dying tumour cells to monitor how well patients are responding to treatment.
For US-raised Tom Weaver, founder of DNA research firm Congenica, Cambridge has the world’s best environment to foster innovation. He moved to the UK 25 years ago and to Cambridge from Oxford in 2010 to take advantage of the facilities.
“People are a company’s most important asset. And in Cambridge you’re spoilt for choice with talent – there are students, post doctorates, experienced scientists and engineers on the doorstep,” says Weaver.
Congenica is developing software tools that allow doctors to interpret the genetic make-up of an individual. This helps to determine whether they have a genetic disease and enables a definitive diagnosis. The company recently raised £1m from Cambridge Innovation Capital and is currently in the middle of another fundraising round. The firm employs 14 people full-time, with a handful of part-timers.
Silicon Valley equivalent?
The local economy is thriving. Unemployment in Cambridge is around 1.4pc, against 5.5pc nationally, and the gross value added to the UK economy per job in Cambridge and the surrounding area is £45,000, compared with London’s £34,200. Forty years ago there were 20,000 hi-tech jobs in Cambridge. That number has ballooned to 48,000, with people working in industries from drug modelling to developing alternative fuels.
Scott White, head of chip developer Pragmatic, is a serial entrepreneur who lived in California before coming to Cambridge 14 years ago. His company is developing what is effectively a plastic chip that can be embedded in any object, from a coffee cup to packaging labels.
White’s idea is that any everyday object can have electronic intelligence – for example, a chip in a bottle of wine could alert the consumer to when it is the best temperature to drink.
“Outside of London, there aren’t many places that Americans recognise. Cambridge, however, is a known location when you’re doing business globally,” he says, adding that it is one of the “very few places in the world that compare to Silicon Valley in terms of technology interest and talent.”
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