It is difficult to understand the Cambridge Phenomenon

…but the Technopole Report helps a little to better understand Cambridge’s innovation system often also called Silicon Fen with today about 1,500 firms employing about 53,000 people.

The report lists numerous relevant actors, such as  Cambridge ConsultantsCambridge Science Park (founded in 1970 by Trinity College), St John’s innovation centre (founded by St John’s College in 1987) and financiers such as Hermann Hauser that helped a nearly uncountable number of firms to grow and florish. Not to mention the numerous events and occasions where people meet informally and exchange ideas.

Succesful Cambridge companies include names such as Acorn Computing, Sinclair Research, Aveva, ARM and Autonomy. According to a recent WIRED article Cambridge has produced not less than 12 firms whose market capitalisation exceed $1bn. Probably most prominent is ARM. Founded in 1990, the semiconductor and software design company grew to become a multibillion valued competitor of Intel. Actually, by today its processors quasi dominate the markets for mobile phones, smartphones and tablets.

How Cambridge supports its spin-outs with funding

The University of Cambridge recently announced that it had pulled together partners to set up a £50 million fund called Cambridge Innovation Capital (CIC) for financing university spin-outs. Despite the impressive investment sum, the interesting aspect of the concept is that the fund intents to support entrepreneurial ventures with a long term return perspective so that young firms can hold the breath long enough to pass the „valley of death“.

University of Cambridge ranks third in QS World University Ranking 2013

According to the recently released QS World University Rankings 2013 of universities on this planet, the University of Cambridge ranks third behind MIT (#1) and Harvard (#3). Oxford is #6.

The first German university on the list is Heidelberg on #50, followed by TU Munich (#53) and LMU Munich (#65). The University of Hamburg ranks #186 and Kiel University scores #293.

Across Swedish universities, Chalmers is #5 ranking overall #202.

University of Cambridge ranks #5 world wide

Academic Ranking of World Universities, also known as the „Shanghai Ranking“ released it 2013 ranking listing the University of Cambridge overall on # 5. Cambridge is the first non-American university after Harvard, Stanford, Berkeley and MIT. Among the top 10 universities are only two non-US (Cambridge at # 5, Oxford at # 10). The next non-US university is ETH Zurich at # 20.

Across different fields Cambridge makes it to # 2 in Life and Agriculture Sciences Cambrige. In engineering it is # 14, in medical # 6, and social science # 16. Broken down further by subject, Cambridge ranks # 17 in „Economics / Business“ just after one other non-US university (London School of Economics and Political Science, #13). In Mathematics it is # 4, Physics # 8, Chemistry # 4 and Computer # 38.

Hence, Cambridge makes it to # 1 in the UK, just above Oxford and UCL.

Remote access technology has roots in Cambridge

I recently learned that the defacto standard remote access technology, which is used today widely across numerous mobile and smart phone (i.e., in billion devices), but also by software to remotely access desktop computers, whether for private or professional purposes(e.g., software support), such as Teamviewer, was developed by the Cambridge University spin-out RealVNC in 1998. Apparently, the software diffused so widely, because the inventors had chosen an open source approach. RealVNC is probably one of the „most successful Cambridge University spin-outs of all time“.

MakeSpace in Cambridge

Yesterday, I visited the MakeSpace in Cambridge. A recently started collaborative fablab made possible with generous funding from ideaSpace, the Institute for Manufacturing (IfM), ARM, TTP, Microsoft Research and Cambridge Science Centre.

They got great equipment to build whatever you want, from laser cutter, 3D printer, but also the „old school“ equipment for drilling and milling. I hope this space inspires a lot of people to become creative and innovative.

Users innovate collaboratively in fab labs

Fab labs are on the rise. One has recently opened here in Cambridge, named „Makespace„.  In Hamburg we have Fabulous St. Pauli since 2011. These are places where users can turn their ideas into prototypes using state-of-the-art 3D-printing, but as well more conventional tools such as CNC or drilling machines. A recent brand eins article dealt with the phenomenon, particularly in the context of sharing knowledge, resources and just forming local communities. Several examples exist. Visit also the website of the International Fab Lab Association for more information and several examples. According to the article, the first fab lab in Germany was the „Münchner Haus der Eigenarbeit“ founded already in 1987.