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Tech City Contender: Silicon Fen, Cambridge

Tech City Contender: Silicon Fen, Cambridge

ThereΓÇÖs far more to the UK tech scene than Silicon Roundabout. This week we continue our look at alternatives to ShoreditchΓÇÖs Tech City with a look at the Cambridge Cluster ΓÇô aka Silicon Fen.

Cambridge Science Park Innovation Centre

About Silicon Fen

To call Silicon Fen a Tech City Contender is actually a bit unfair. The Cambridge Cluster was doing the whole tech startup thing long before the first tech firm arrived in Shoreditch. It began back in 1970 when Trinity College launched the Cambridge Science Park which was intended to enable enterprise to make the most of the knowledge base of the academics at Cambridge University.

Today Silicon Fen takes in more than 1,500 companies which together employ more than 53,000 people. ItΓÇÖs home to many established tech companies including Oracle and QUALCOMM, but also continues to attract a healthy number of tech startups ΓÇô so much so that The Times described it as ΓÇ£bursting at the seamsΓÇ¥ earlier this year. The area is also known for its strong biotech scene.

WhoΓÇÖs based here?

Tech companies found in Silicon Fen span everything from clean tech to business software. Earlier this year, Google were rumoured to be looking for space here.

Notable tech companies based here include:

  • Citrix Systems ΓÇô leader in virtual computing solutions
  • Oracle ΓÇô world leader in business hardware and software systems
  • Ubisense ΓÇô tracking and geospatial systems (their clients include Airbus and BMW)
  • MagicSolver ΓÇô app store search engine
  • Cambridge Temperate Concepts ΓÇô medical devices for remote diagnosis
  • Owlstone ΓÇô chemical substance detecting tech
  • Linguamatics ΓÇô text analytics software
  • Eight19 ΓÇô printed, low-cost solar tech

Startup support

Compared with many other tech hubs, Silicon Fen is noticeably less about ΓÇ£buzzΓÇ¥ ΓÇô you wonΓÇÖt find quite so much talk about accelerators and funding events. This isnΓÇÖt necessarily a bad thing though ΓÇô the area has a long and proven track record of producing successful tech companies. Startups based here will find themselves alongside a wealth of well-established businesses from which to learn and to draw inspiration.

Within Cambridge Science Park, the Innovation Centre provides a dedicated incubator space for startups, offering flexible office space and the chance to join a thriving tech community.

Silicon Fen tech community: learning and networking

A number of talks and events are held at Cambridge Science Park but it is within the wide Cambridge area that the main tech community events take place, from regular meetups to conferences.

CAMDUG (Cambridge DevelopersΓÇÖ User Group) organises a range of events including code retreats, barbecues and a monthly Javascript roundup. With an emphasis on fun not profit, this group is all about hacking, coding and socialising. Look out for their annual Snowcode conference which is held at a ski resort.

Looking for a meetup with a business focus? Lean Startup Cambridge is an informal group which hosts both breakfast meetings and evening events for tech entrepreneurs to discuss lean startup methodology.

Other events to look out for include the Cambridge Startup Weekend, Startup Grind Cambridge and the Cambrudge University hosted SVC2UK:2013 (Silicon Valley Comes to the UK), which brings speakers from San FranciscoΓÇÖs tech scene to share their expertise.

The Cambridge talent pool

As the home of one of the worldΓÇÖs leading universities, Cambridge gives tech startups access to some of the brightest minds and sharpest academic thinking in the UK.

  • University of Cambridge: Ranked second in the UK and seventh worldwide, undergraduate courses taught here include Computer Science, Biochemistry, Biologics and Biomedical Science, and Economics.
  • Anglia Ruskin University: Actually based across three campuses, Anglia Ruskin might not be as well-known as its Oxbridge alternative, but it does offer a variety of specific courses likely to appeal to the tech industry. Courses taught at its Cambridge campus include Computer Science, Computer Gaming Technology, Computer Games Art, and Electronics. On the business side, courses include Business Economics, Business Management, and International Business.

The Big Picture: the future for Silicon Fen

With an annual turnover of more than £13bn, the Cambridge Cluster is already in an enviably strong position. However, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t looking to grow further, and a 2011 report by Cambridgeshire County Council suggested that improving connectivity with London is key for the future.

And while it might not be an upstart like Tech City, the media buzz around tech hubs has done much to raise the profile of Silicon Fen over the last few years. Unlike Tech City, it certainly isnΓÇÖt suffering from speculation that it will be nothing more than a fleeting success.

Is Cambridge better than London for launching a tech startup? Or maybe you prefer last weekΓÇÖs Tech City Contender ΓÇô Birmingham? Tell us what you think in the comments.

(Image of Innovation Centre at Cambridge Science Park by Cmglee via Wikimedia Commons.)


Discover more alternatives to Tech City:

Tech City Contender: Innovation Birmingham Campus



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