5 Spaces For Anyone To Grow A Business In The Cambridge Cluster
Let’s take a closer look at some central places where the doors are open to all:
Before we can understand today’s high tech entrepreneurship boom in Cambridge, we need to get medieval. Flashback to the year 1535. King Henry VIII was on the British throne. While he was known for his love of gorgeous women and that controversial split with the Catholic Church, he also set in motion one of the world’s first modern technology companies.
Cambridge’s University Press was established in 1535 when King Henry VIII granted ‘Letters Patent’ for its creation. Today the Cambridge University Press is the world’s oldest publishing house and the second largest university press in the world. It is also the first of many modern technology spinouts to come from the University of Cambridge.
Over the nearly five centuries since King Henry VIII launched the Press, many innovations that changed the world sparked in Silicon Fen. There are too many to list all of them, so here are a few highlights that have influenced how we live today:
- Scientific Method: Francis Bacon developed the scientific theory while at Cambridge. He was just 12 when he began his studies in 1573.
- DNA Discovery: Cambridge biologists including Francis Crick, James Watson and Rosalind Franklin, figured out a model for the three-dimensional structure of DNA while working at the University’s Cavendish Laboratory in 1953.
- Computers: Mathematician Charles Babbage designed the world’s first computing system as early as the mid-1800s. Mathematician Alan Turing went on to devise what is essentially the basis for modern computing during the 1930s. And then Computer Scientist Maurice Wilkes created the first programmable computer.
- Jet Engine: After serving in the British Royal Air Force (RAF), Frank Whittle invented the jet engine while earning his mechanical science degree as a mature student. He had initially pitched his concept to the RAF but was rejected, so he decided to study at Cambridge instead. Upon completing his degree, Whittle was assigned full time to develop the jet engine by the RAF. The first run of an experimental model took place in April 1937.
- Cosmology: When Professor Stephen Hawking was a graduate student in the 1960s working with theoretical physicist Roger Penrose, he proved that singularities exist. He’s known worldwide for his theories on general relativity, black holes and big bangs.
- IVF Treatment: University of Cambridge embryologist, Robert Edwards and his colleague Patrick Steptoe, were the first to develop the IVF technique, enabling infertile women to have babies. The first baby born via IVF turns 40 years old on July 25, 2018. Edwards was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology of Medicine for the development of in vitro fertilization in 2010.
Today Cambridge’s position on the edge of London makes it a hot spot to start or optimize a business. The center of this picturesque medieval city is located just 45 minutes from London’s Kings Cross train station. It’s an even faster 30 minute rail ride from London’s Stansted Airport. Indeed the New York Times recently highlighted Cambridge’s strategic location in an article titled Silicon Valley’s Tech Giants Take Their Talent Hunt To Cambridge: A boom in artificial intelligence research has drawn the tech industry’s biggest companies and their checkbooks to the storied English city.
“When you step off the train here and walk into the city square outside the railway station, you will not see the spires of King’s College Chapel or the turrets atop the Trinity Great Court. The University of Cambridge is still a cab ride away. But you will see a stone and glass office building with a rooftop patio. This is where Amazon designs its flying drones.”
University of Cambridge statistics for the Cambridge Cluster show it is one of the largest and most important high tech clusters in Europe:
* there are more than 4,700 knowledge-intensive firms in and around the city
* more than 60,000 people are employed by Silicon Fen
* companies generate more than of £12 billion in turnover is annually
* innovation under pins Cambridge, the city publishes 341 patents per 100,000 residents, that’s more than the next four cities in the UK combined.
Commercializing in Cambridge:
If you’re a member of the University, its commercialization arm, Cambridge Enterprise offers support with all aspects of the process. Contact them for details. But if you want to open or cultivate a business in Cambridge, and you aren’t a member, there are a growing number of resources available to help. From accelerators to incubators plus coworking and office suites, there’s something for every need. Here are five spaces where anyone can launch or grow a business in central Cambridge.
The Innovation Centre was completed in 1987 on a 21-acre plot of land that’s been owned by St John’s College since 1534. St John’s Innovation Centre became the first innovation center in Europe to focus on supporting knowledge-based businesses. It’s also the oldest business incubator of its kind in the United Kingdom. Today the Innovation Centre fosters the growth of many Cambridge based businesses. While a number of entrepreneurs working from St Johns are Cambridge graduates, residents do not need to be associated with the University to rent an office, host a conference or visit the restaurant for lunch.
St John’s Innovation Centre is a commercial operation. It’s annual profits are paid over to St John’s College for endowment purposes. However, a lot of the advice and training it provides to growth firms across greater Cambridge has been made possible by a series of grants over many years from public sector organizations such the UK’s Department for Trade, the East of England Development Agency (EEDA) and the European Commission.
British multinational investment bank and financial services company, Barclays plc, launched its ‘Eagle Labs’ business incubator with the aim to offer a space for ‘everybody to creative, innovate and grow.’ The London headquartered bank launched its first Eagle Lab in Cambridge in 2016 to help businesses and individuals build their digital business skills. At the time Barclays said it hoped the Lab will encourage innovation in the future of fast growth sectors as well as UK manufacturing and production. Since piloting in Cambridge, Barclays has opened other Labs across the UK.
“Cambridge is the home of innovation, so it feels right that our flagship incubator is based here. A community of pioneers and innovators across a variety of sectors. Cambridge incubator actively supports the Cambridge ecosystem of entrepreneurs.”
- Barclays Eagle Labs
Eagle Labs is open to anyone who wants to work in the Cambridge community. They offer co-working space, private office space, mentoring, events and meeting rooms. Affiliation to the University of Cambridge is not required. They are however looking for high growth businesses (in the region of 20%+ year on year).
ideaSpace functions as a hub for early stage innovation, providing space and resources. Opened in 2009, ideaSpace uses unoccupied University property on a medium-term basis and as such it doesn’t pay full commercial rent and passes this savings onto startuppers. It current has three spaces across the University: City, West and South.
While ideaSpace is a department of the University of Cambridge, affiliation is not required to join this space. The hub’s director says he looks at founders as individuals and evaluates the potential they bring to the community. He ultimately accepts startups based on being able to generate significant social and economic impact. A perk for non-university members is that the hub can introduce entrepreneurs to the University community. ideaSpace offers part-time or full-time membership options.
Grants from the East of England Development Agency (EEDA) and a generous donation from Dr Hermann Hauser, a Cambridge PhD and serial entrepreneur in the Cluster, made the launch of ideaSpace possible. Its expansion has been partly funded by a grant from the Local Enterprise Partnership.
Offering on demand, part-time or full-time membership packages, DeskSpace aims to help entrepreneurs flourish, socialize and work. Located just six minutes walk from Cambridge’s Main train station, DeskSpace provides an easy to reach option for entrepreneurs meeting with people travelling into Cambridge to talk business. For example, their ‘On Demand’ half-day desk price is just £7.00. They also offer meeting room reservations. Buses that travel to the various science parks around Cambridge are also nearby at the train station.
Cambridge DeskSpace was originally founded by a high school student who had the vision to bridge the gap between young minds and real world business problems. In fact her school, Cambridge Leadership College, helped founder Annabelle Grove, launch DeskSpace by building it on a part of their property. Anyone can sign-up to use the facilities — affiliation to the University of Cambridge or even residence in Cambridge, is not currently required.
5. Bradfield Centre:
Cambridge’s latest space for entrepreneurs is located near the city’s new North train station in the Cambridge Science Park. The Centre has been purposely designed to accelerate tech businesses and more than 300 entrepreneurs joined since it opened last year.
The 40,000-square foot space offers airy workspaces with communal areas and facilities including meeting rooms, 100-seat auditorium, a café and licensed bar, showers, kitchens with complimentary tea and coffee, and unlimited wifi.
Being around Cambridge, the Bradfield Centre currently holds the buzz for ‘the place to be’ for entrepreneurs in the city. From corporate CEOs to young founders and distinguished professors, people are coming together at Bradfield with the aim of making businesses that create value.
According to Trinity College “the £20 million Bradfield Centre is a collaboration between Trinity College, the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), and Central Working. The Centre is named after Sir John Bradfield, Trinity’s former Senior Bursar, who set up the Science Park in 1970 — the first in Europe.”
The Bradfield Centre has benefitted from a government grant of nearly £5 million, covering about one quarter of its build costs. It is open 24 hours, seven days a week — and it’s open to all.
And finally, while Cambridge Enterprise is a division designed to help commercialize the outcomes of University research, it does occasionally offer short courses, seminars and other resources to people, academics and businesses that are not University members. Check Cambridge Enterprise’s website for the details of any upcoming public offerings.
The University of Cambridge is the second oldest university in the English speaking world and the world’s fourth oldest surviving university. It was founded in 1209 and granted a Royal Charter by King Henry III in 1231.
Follow me on Medium and Twitter @CambridgeTricia
Visit me at www.ShowMeMyCustomers.com
Cambridge MBA | Marketing Consultant | Speaker | Author | Ghostwriter