The modern Cambridge cluster began in 1960 with the foundation of Cambridge Consultants, which was formed to “put the brains of Cambridge University at the disposal of industry.” While Cambridge was already home to several well-established engineering firms, such as the Cambridge Scientific Instrument Company, the Pye Group, and Marshall of Cambridge, it was still viewed by many as a “small country town in the centre of a very large natural green belt.”
However, with the establishment of Cambridge Science Park by Trinity College in 1970, the cluster began to grow rapidly. 39 new companies were formed between 1960 and 1969. In the 1970s, 137 were formed. By 1990, company formations had reached an average of two per week.
Today, Cambridge is Europe's largest technology cluster. Around 57,000 people are employed by the more than 1,500 technology-based firms in the area, which have combined annual revenue of over £13 billion.
The University’s role in the cluster
The University is a major employer, technology provider, and a source of knowledge and skills in the region.
Much of the cluster’s rapid growth in the 1970s can be attributed to the foundation of the Cambridge Science Park by Trinity College in 1970. In addition to the Science Park, the University and its Colleges have been integral to the infrastructure which enables the cluster to continue to grow, including St John’s Innovation Centre, Peterhouse Technology Park, the Cambridge Judge Entrepreneurship Centre (including Accelerate Cambridge); and the ideaSpace Enterprise Accelerator.
University people and ideas are at the heart of many of the companies in the cluster, whether the company is based on University research (spin-out), or founded by a member of the University (start-up).
The University also contributes to the growth of the cluster by providing solutions to business problems through consultancy activity and through the licensing of discoveries to new and existing companies. More than 1,000 IP licensing, consultancy and equity contracts are currently under management by Cambridge Enterprise, the University’s commercialisation group.