June 23, 2024

Home to over 5,300 high tech companies, Cambridge is among the world’s leading university-based ecosystems. Ranked as the third most important science hub globally in 2022, the city counts 23 unicorns and its university-backed startups have raised over £3bn in research investment.

Now, Cambridges aims to more than double its unicorns by 2035 under a new scheme led by a partnership of local universities, government bodies, and industry players including Microsoft and AstraZeneca.

Announced today, the Innovate Cambridge initiative will seek to support business growth and double the number of multinational companies in the area to 40. The initiative has also partnered with Manchester to foster innovation in both cities, and create local hubs to facilitate the relationship between researchers and entrepreneurs.

Meanwhile, earlier this week, the University of Cambridge launched a new flagship programme to support spinout founders in their scaling and commercialisation journey. The initiative will combine capital, networks, and talent, while it will focus on founders (mainly active in deep tech) whose products are solving world-pressing problems such as the climate crisis and aging population.

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Founders who join the programme are expected to raise over £700mn in the first five years.

“Cambridge already has a global reputation for producing world-leading technology businesses such as ARM Holdings, Darktrace, FeatureSpace, and Healx,” said Gerard Grech, the initiative’s managing director and former CEO of Tech Nation. “Creating fertile pathways for our top innovators to bring their game-changing solutions to market is vital.”

Both programmes are a breath of fresh air for the UK government, whose ambition to turn Cambrigde into “the science capital of Europe” has been facing a series of hurdles.

Earlier this year, housing secretary Michael Gove unveiled a £5mn “Cambridge 2040 Plan” in response to the problems delaying the city’s growth. But that plan has been hindered not only by local opposition to residential construction, but also by insufficient water and transport infrastructure.

“Cambridge needs to provide for its high tech growth,” Lord David Willets, the chair of Innovate Cambridge, told the Financial Times. “The good news is that it is already in the planning system. The bad news is actually getting all this through is tricky with a whole range of issues.”

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