Latest data reveals year-on-year growth of Cambridge-based companies remains high compared to rest of the UK

Matthew Bullock

Data shows the largest knowledge intensive sectors of IT and telecoms, life sciences and healthcare and high-tech manufacturing account for turnover of over £4.5billion.

The most recent data from the University of Cambridge’s Centre for Business Research, shows that in the year to April 2018, Cambridge-based companies within the Cambridge Ahead area (ie within a 20 mile radius of the city) grew their global turnover by 8.7% and their global employment by 4.1%. Cambridge based companies generate total revenues of £46.6b and employ 233,000 employees worldwide.These figures represent a fall from the extremely rapid growth seen in 2016, when growth was respectively 15.8% and 8.5%, but they still outstrip the rest of the UK economy, which saw employment growth of only 1.2% (ONS BRES) and is in line with the growth scenarios used in the Cambridge and Peterborough Independent Economic Review (, the knowledge intensive (KI) sectors have continued to grow at a steady, high pace with turnover growth of 11.4% and employment growth of 4.9%. The largest KI sectors – IT and telecoms, life sciences and healthcare and high-tech manufacturing, each accounted for over £4.5b turnover. These sectors have shown consistently high turnover growth of around 9% on a three and six year basis, and around 5.5% employment growth over the same periods. KI sectors now account for 33% of turnover at £15.5b and 26.5% (61,800 staff) in employment. Turnover and employment growth across this period was particularly strong in IT and telecoms (14.8% and 12.6%). Of particular note in this sector was the employment growth of Aveva as a result of its merger with one of the divisions of France-based Schneider Electric. High-tech manufacturing also displayed high turnover growth at 13.7%, while employment actually fell by -0.9%. Life sciences turnover and employment growth was slower at 7.5% and 2.7% respectively, after very rapid growth in 2017 (20.4% and 7.2%).In other sectors growth was notably slower than 2017, but still respectable at 7.4% turnover and 3.8% employment growth. Property and finance, wholesale and retail distribution and manufacturing all grew steadily; whereas the most marked change was in construction and utilities, where turnover growth was 4.3%, but employment actually fell by 3.5%.A particularly striking feature of the Greater Cambridge area economy is the continuing increase in firm size. While there is a broadly stable number – 12,000 to 13,000 – of single person companies, the number of companies employing over 250 employees has risen by 64% to 113 over the last six years, and the strata of medium-sized firms has grown by 40% to 426 companies.

Commenting on the data, which is funded annually by Cambridge Ahead, Matthew Bullock (pictured), Vice-Chairman of Cambridge Ahead and Master of St Edmund’s College, Cambridge, said: “Last year there was clearly a bounce after the initial Brexit vote, which has now fallen back. However, even in this prolonged period of uncertainty, Cambridge continues to perform strongly.”

The current Cambridge Cluster Map, showing all Cambridge-based companies, can be viewed at 

  • The data includes global turnover and global employment figures for all companies registered, or with their principal trading, within a 20-mile radius from Cambridge, plus employment in all the research laboratories and universities in the area. It does not include employment data for sole traders, some elements of the public sector, and employees of the national and international companies with trading and research offices in Cambridge.
  • The Clustermap was launched in July 2016 and enables companies and individuals to search by individual businesses or postcodes, as well as by sector, size and growth rates. Academics, economists and other interested researchers will be able to gain access to the underlying raw data on request via a dedicated page on the Cambridge Ahead website.

 About the Centre for Business Research:The Centre for Business Research (CBR) is a research institution within the University of Cambridge which conducts interdisciplinary research on enterprise, innovation and governance in contemporary market economies. Established in 1994, it is now one of the leading centres for social science research on economics, law and business in the UK, and has a growing European and global reputation. For more information, please visit the Cambridge and Peterborough Independent Economic Review:The Cambridge and Peterborough Independent Economic Review was established in June 2017, under the chairmanship of Dame Kate Barker, to develop an authoritative evidence base on the economic performance and potential of the region, and to inform choices on policy priorities and strategic investments. It included economic forecasting to determine the potential impact of various scenarios of the development of the region. The Final Report was published in September 2018. 

To read more information, click here.

Cambridge Ahead is a business and academic member group dedicated to the successful growth of Cambridge and its region in the long term. We aim to represent the city’s business community by offering soundly-based opinion and advice to local and national governments about the opportunities and needs of the region.

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