Cambridge tops UK’s ‘New Economy’ thrust

Cambridge’s status as a world-class Science & Technology hub has been further underlined by a recent Centre for Cities report.

Business Weekly article | By Tony Quested 

The study shows Cambridge as the stand-out leader in the UK’s ‘New Economy’, serial tech entrepreneur Charles Cotton was thrilled to report.

Cambridge has given birth to an astonishing 20 companies that passed the $1 billion landmark valuation as private and public enterprises.

Others are based here although they were not born in the city – AstraZeneca and Johnson Matthey being prime examples. The former has a market cap of £173.26 billion! JM’s is a more modest but still impressive £3.9bn.

In business, a unicorn is a privately held startup company valued at over $1 billion. Abcam, Arm, Autonomy, AVEVA, blinkx, CAT, CMR Surgical, Chiroscience, CSR, Darktrace, Domino, Frontier Developments, Improbable, Ionica, Kymab, Marshall, Prometic, Solexa, Virata and Xaar all passed the coveted $1bn mark as either private or public businesses, says Cotton – architect of the modern-day Cambridge Phenomenon series of initiatives.

As Business Weekly has reported throughout 2022, Cambridge has further burnished its reputation by launching or extending the reach and influence of several centres of excellence.

Deeptech Labs – this year named best of breed in Europe – both funds and mentors DeepTech sector startups from around the world; a young Cambridge institute offering a specialist Life Science MBA was spun-off from a Spanish parent and promises to act as a lightning rod for more serial entrepreneurs and spin-outs and further enhance the Cluster’s role as a global influencer in the sector.

Efforts by the increasingly influential University of Cambridge and several major corporates have established the city as a world leader in genomics research; in broader Life Sciences, the city is now on the cusp of commercialising its 3rd blockbuster drug.

A new Cambridge-Swiss CleanTech investment fund has made its bow here while Innovate Cambridge has been boosted by backing from global giants Microsoft and AstraZeneca. A new SpaceTech cluster to be sculpted in Norfolk and Suffolk will have Cambridge input.

Now comes the Centre for Cities report which stands many perceptions on their heads.

It says that while patterns have shown there is an urban preference among new economy companies, there is still enormous variation across cities.

Those with the largest new economies tend to be in the Greater South East, with seven of the top 10 located in this part of the country. Cambridge, Milton Keynes, Oxford and London rank the highest with more than 30 new economy businesses per 10,000 working-age residents.

The study highlights agglomeration factors on the basis that New Economy businesses need access to highly-skilled workers.

It says: “Skills appear to be a significant factor in the location decisions of new economy businesses, both within cities and outside of them. Cities and non-urban areas in the Greater South East, where the proportion of new economy firms is comparatively high, typically have large shares of high-skilled residents.

“A city like Cambridge, or non-urban areas such as Windsor and Maidenhead, have a highly skilled population and a large number of new economy businesses.”

Centre for Cities puts manufacturing’s influence in timely perspective, adding: “Frequently, calls to promote sectors like advanced manufacturing are based on the premise that manufacturing mostly takes place in the North and Midlands and that places should build on their existing strengths
“However there is no relationship between share of employment in manufacturing as a whole and the amount of non-services new economy businesses in a city.

“A number of cities with small manufacturing sectors overall (and no strong manufacturing legacy), such as Milton Keynes, Cambridge, and Aldershot, have large non-services new economy sectors.”

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