High-tech clusters are not at all unique to Cambridge or East Anglia, according to Mark Robson of Cambridge corporate finance department.
Hi-tech clusters not unique to Cambridge, says Robson
Deloitte & Touche recently advised the owners of Mass Analyser Products (MAP) on the sale of their business to Micromass Ltd - a much larger American-owned business and, according to Mr Robson, the company provides an interesting case study of how high-tech clusters can develop almost anywhere.
Whilst Micromass was not searching for such a business, it recognised the entrepreneurial attitudes of a small team which fitted with its own culture (although operating outside its more glamorous life sciences activity).
MAP, which is based near Manchester, manufactures specialised Mass Spectrometers - used to detect radioactivity and determine the ages of rocks millions of years old.
Mr Robson said: 'The founders of MAP were employed by a large mass spectrometer manufacturer near Manchester. A number of years ago they took stock of their skills and saw the opportunity to establish their own business - controlling their own destiny and developing niche markets.
'Soon they found themselves one of a group of similar specialist mass spectrometry companies operating around their old parent in 'mass spectrometry alley' in Cheshire, near Manchester.'
According to Mr Robson, the Mass Analyser Products' experience shows that high-tech clusters have a lot to do with an historic accident that sees a number of highly-skilled people concentrated in one area.
'We are seeing clusters develop not just in Cambridge - but in parts of Scotland and the Thames Valley as well as around Manchester and other northern cities' he said.
'Once a cluster develops, it tends to feed on itself and attract other employees as well as specialists in law, accounting, intellectual property and financial matters. As such, the track record of Deloitte & Touche's Cambridge corporate finance department in advising high-tech companies was important to the founders of MAP when it came to selling their business.'
However according to Mr Robson, despite the benefits, companies operating in high-tech clusters should not rest on their laurels.
'Businesses are based around people and, as we know, such intellectual property is highly portable. Today we are seeing advances in communications infrastructure, the blurring of boundaries and location becoming less and less important.'
'Deloitte and Touche's role in the sale of MAP shows how high-tech clusters can develop and be supported from almost anywhere in the country or even the world.'
With increasing mobility in the economy, Cambridge will need to continue to work hard to maintain and develop its claim to the title of 'Britain's high-tech capital'.
The Deloitte Cambridge office comprises 8 Partners and over 250 staff who deliver a full range of professional services to the East Anglian region. As well as focussing on the life sciences and technology sectors for which the region has become so renowned, the office has long standing specialisms in other sectors including the professions, consumer business and agriculture.