Start-ups and scale-ups
Start & Scale your tech business faster
Described by an investor as “the safest place to grow high risk businesses”, Cambridge has the highest proportion per capita of start-ups and scale-ups in the UK. The cluster has a track record of success in the past 50 years, during which it has organically established a very supportive environment to help Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs) grow.
The ingredients of success include universities, research institutes, investors, incubators, accelerators, financiers, professional advisors, consultancies and networks, all working in a distinct atmosphere of entrepreneurship, collaboration, accessibility and proximity. This is artificially seeded by the Cambridge Network and other sector-specific networks.
The people in these organisations work together and cross-fertilise ideas; creating vibrant eco-systems which develop and grow companies. It’s an R&D hothouse of connections, cultivated by incubators, special interest groups, mentoring and peer-learning groups.
Incubators and accelerators
There is provision for every company’s life stage, not just in office and lab accommodation, but in support from incubators; at the University of Cambridge supported Ideaspace, St John's Innovation Centre (Europe’s oldest incubator), Babraham Institute’s BioIncubator and the Wellcome Genome Campus’ Biodata Innovation Centre The Judge Business School provides a plethora of entrepreneurship activities and support, not least of which is the Accelerate programme. Cambridge Enterprise facilitates the commercialisation of University spin-outs. There is a variety of healthcare incubation programmes too.
The success of such programmes and organisations has resulted in greater pressure to expand the provision for start-ups and scale-ups; these facilities opened in 20016-17:
- Ideaspace South @Addenbrookes Hospital
- The Bradfield Centre
- North West Cambridge campus
- Cambridge Biomedical Campus' Innovation space
The School for Scale-Ups
For more than a decade, Cambridge Network’s Learning Collaboration has been providing programmes for high-growth leaders to enable their teams to practise the skills required for scaling-up. The Learning Collaboration’s unique operating model means the programme is effectively a consensus of the companies that have used it, some of which are the 15 so-called ‘$1bn scale -ups’ that have been home-grown from founding in Cambridge. More details about the programme can be found here.
There is a variety of funding sources in the cluster, such as Cambridge Capital Group, Cambridge Angels, Cambridge Enterprise, CIC, Amadeus, IQ Capital, Intebridge Capital ; more examples in our finance listings. There are regular visits from international investors, through our introduction service and initiatives such as Silicon Valley Comes to the UK.
Increasingly, there are corporate venturing funds looking to invest and collaborate on innovation. e.g. Johnson & Johnson.
The key incentive for joining the cluster is the existing eco-system of access to finance, mentors and spaces appropriate for each life stage of your company. Grants and subsidies are available in the Cambridge region, but there is high demand in this competitive environment. Innovate UK often has competitions for relevant themes, as does the European Commission.
Cambridge Network works with businesses to help them be as good as they can be, making introductions to collaborators; helping to recruit, train and develop their staff and supporting the growth of the region. We organise more than 300 courses and events per year to this effect.
There are some 30 networking groups in Cambridge, plus more special interest groups (SIGs) and strategic research initiatives from Cambridge University. Some popular examples include; One Nucleus, the very effective life sciences and biotech organisation; CW (Cambridge Wireless), which represents the expertise in Cambridge and beyond; Agri-tech East, which is bringing local agri-business and science together; and Cambridge Cleantech, which connects companies in sustainability technologies. Other examples include the IoT Forum and Business of Software, both publishers of online content and live events.
IP Lawyers, Accountants, Advisors
With the decades of economic success, the professional advisors have accordingly developed their specialisms in high growth tech businesses. Often professional advisors give an initial consultation free of charge to investors in the cluster. For examples of such advisors, please use our directory listings e.g. lawyers.
Offices & Labs
There’s plenty of flexible accommodation to assist with the changing requirements of growth businesses; including Europe’s first innovation centre.
Interested in meeting potential partners or investors? Please fill in the form here.