‘Cranebridge’ – innovation raises city to new heights

Cambridge is towering ahead in the development stakes, with 50 cranes spread across the city. An active development review undertaken by property consultants Bidwells highlights the staggering growth currently shaping the city.


Patrick McMahon, Senior Partner at Bidwells  (pictured), said: "As you approach the city from any direction, you cannot help but notice the cranes towering across the skyline.  As one of the UK’s fastest growing cities, the level of active construction provides clear testimony to the strength of the Cambridge development market.

“Cambridge is the most innovative city in the UK, and is a cornerstone of the Oxford- Cambridge- London ‘Golden Triangle’. Key sectors like bioscience and ICT are driving this and are the vanguard of the nation’s future economic prosperity.”

The Bidwells survey notes that 14 major developments were initiated in Cambridge in 2015.  This is a significant rate of growth in a city with a population of only 128,500. 

Bidwells has compared its research to the findings of the very well established and renowned “Crane Survey” carried out by Deloitte.  A recent Deloitte survey noted nine new major development starts in Birmingham last year – a city with a population of 2.47 million.  In Manchester, there are 21 new projects in a city with a population of 2.41 million. 

The Bidwells Cambridge data shows that the city presently has one crane for every 2,500 people. 

As Bidwells notes, from the major new housing developments ringing the city, to AstraZeneca's global R&D centre and headquarters on the Cambridge Biomedical Campus, to the multi-million pound CB1 development at the station and the University of Cambridge-led North West Cambridge initiative, it is clear that the "Cambridge Phenomenon", traceable back to the 1970s, continues unabated.

Recent data released by Cambridge Ahead highlighted the true strength of the city's booming economy when it revealed that for every £100 generated by business in the entire UK as revenue, £1 of this has been produced by Cambridge.  The recent Centre for Cities report identified Cambridge as having some of the best socio-economic indicators in the UK and, at 102 per 100,000 of population per annum, a patent registration rate more than five times its nearest rival (Aberdeen with 19.7).

Headline data:

  • Take up of office and R&D space in Cambridge in 2015 was 1.2 million sq ft
  • There is currently a total availability of office and R&D space in Cambridge of around 715,000 sq ft. This represents only about seven months’ supply at current demand rates.
  • Requirements in the city for office and R&D space stands at approximately 1.7 million sq ft, representing nearly three times the current level of supply and creating a very positive development imperative.
  • There are currently more than a dozen major residential schemes being developed around the city, with sizes ranging from 1,200 units at Trumpington Meadows to 150 units at Vesta in the city centre.

Background - Key developments taking shape in and around the city include:

  • The North West Cambridge development which will include 1,500 homes for University and College staff, 1,500 private houses for sale, accommodation for 2,000 postgraduates, 100,000 sqm of academic and research and development space, together with community facilities such as a primary school, community centre, health centre, supermarket and local shops.
  • The Cambridge Biomedical Campus combines world-class biomedical research, patient care and education on a single site. It is currently undergoing a major expansion which includes the co-location of companies alongside the existing community of healthcare professionals and research scientists.  The Campus is on track to becoming one of the leading biomedical centres in the world by 2020.
  • Situated on the Biomedical Campus, AstraZeneca is currently building a new global R&D centre and headquarters which will become home to approximately 2,000 employees.
  • At Great Kneighton, to the South of the city, a new development of several hundred new homes is being created by Countryside Plc next to a new 120 acre country park which will be home to local wildlife, recreation and sports facilities.
  • The CB1 project represents a new city quarter for Cambridge which includes: new Station Square, an Accor Ibis Hotel, a new 3,000-space multi-storey cycle park and the 125,000 sq ft One Station Square office scheme, alongside restaurants, cafes and retail outlets.  There are also further residential schemes planned. The CB1 area is already home to a growing cluster of global and UK companies, including Microsoft.


The Bidwells count took place during March/April 2016.

Population figures taken from Centre for Cities 2016 research.

Cambridge Ahead is a business and academic member group dedicated to the successful growth of Cambridge and its region in the long term.

The Deloitte Manchester Crane Survey took place from 1 November 2015 to 8 January 2016 and measures the volume of development taking place across central Manchester.

The Deloitte Birmingham Crane Survey took place from 28 September to 6 October 2015 and measures the volume of development taking place across central Birmingham.


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