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Cambridge - Not As Bright As It Thinks It Is

March 30, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 132

Silicon Fen is one of the most successful business stories in the UK's recent industrial past. To criticise Cambridge is tantamount to claiming that Michael McIntyre is funny. I know, it is unbelievable. However, compared with its US namesake Silicon Valley any claims of success must be taken with a large pinch of salt.

The recent fiasco with the raspberry project highlights the fact that whilst Cambridge is never short of ideas it seems largely incapable of turning them into sustainable businesses that benefit the local or even national economy.

To put it bluntly even allowing for the fact that Silicon Valley has been going longer, the Fen has been an abject failure in comparison. Yes, in its own terms of generating significant individual wealth and in terms of start-up activity one could argue that it is successful. But that is the point, to judge it successful one has to ignore other places with access to similar intellectual capital. Money has not been the issue, a recent report highlighted the availability of Angel and VC funding in the area and there have been notable successes: ARM, Autonomy and Cambridge Consultants are all world- class companies and innovation centres like St Johns have international reputations.

Having spent the last four years talking to and advising companies in the hi and biotech sectors it is apparent something is missing. The developmental track record is poor, the number of companies that last prosper and develop in the Cambridge area is disappointing. A recent County Council report provided the depressing statistic that in Cambridgeshire as a whole 96% of all businesses employ less than 50 people and 83% less than 10. In Cambridge itself it is woefully similar with 94% less than 50 and 76% less than 10. So as an engine for both local and national GDP growth generation the "Cambridge Effect" is a bit of a myth and any objective assessment of why it's not working is obscured by the hype and froth and level of heavily trumpeted start-ups who then largely fail to deliver in terms of wider economic growth and employment.

Why is this? What is going wrong? And what can be done to put it right? Well the answer is not a simple one and includes significant cultural aspects of Cambridge and individual expectations of what counts as success. But the over-riding factor is a lack of attention to the business process and the people charged with turning a great idea into a great business. In essence the idea is celebrated and revered over the need to have a good business underpinning it and the necessary business skills to make it work. Until that is given equal if not greater weight in the start-up mix I fear Cambridge will continue to be a massive underachiever in the national and global market place.

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Source: EzineArticles
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