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Sprinkling the Magic Dust that makes Cambridge, Cambridge

Sprinkling the Magic Dust that makes Cambridge, Cambridge

At Cofinitive, we are making our contribution to a way of working that helps to keep Cambridge on the national and global technology map. Those of you who recently attended Cambridge China Forum 2018 or Cambridge Independent’s Business Awards (where we sponsored the OneToWatch category), will have witnessed a little of what it is we are doing and how we are doing it. Those of you who were involved in the Cambridge & Peterborough Independent Economic Review (CPIER) or SmithsonHill’s AgriTech Whitepaper at the House of Commons will have too. Those of you who are members of Impact Women’s Network will also have had first-hand experience of our approach.

So, as 2018 progresses to its inevitable conclusion, we thought it timely to share with you our perspective of our city’s unique position on the national and global stage. We thought it timely too, to invite you to join us in making 2019 the year in which Cambridge secures this place by becoming the exemplar of modern economies by continuing to work to our strengths in an inclusive manner.

Cofinitive is on a mission to be firmly rooted in Cambridge’s role on the national and global technology stage and we’re leading a new way of working (from a communications perspective) to do so. It works. Look back at the opening paragraph of this blog. It’s a snapshot of some of what we have contributed to the Cambridge ecosystem over the last few months of 2018. So, what is this new way of working? Why does it work so well in Cambridge and how can you benefit from it?

What is the new way of working?

At Cofinitive, we are dedicated professionals who work collaboratively to deliver definitive and transformative work. We didn’t simply magic this way of working. We worked hard to distil it, by observing the Cambridge ecosystem and adapting approaches that worked.

We were able to do so because, though Cambridge-based, our founder and key team members have worked globally for decades. This means we understand our city and region from an outsider’s perspective, as well as an insider’s. Our view is clearly that Cambridge is the first of a kind (FOAK). It’s a city around which a number of sector clusters have evolved, where agglomeration is in its DNA and where, because of this, new sectors continue to evolve. It is a city where technology solutions have been evolving for decades based on scientific and technical breakthroughs that define the next century, a natural centre for deep technology.

We’re not the first to have recognised Cambridge’s uniqueness. Cambridge Phenomenon officially did so in 2009, as did the Cambridge & Peterborough Independent Economic Commission (CPIEC) in its final report as recently as this autumn.

Indeed, be it AgriTech, bio-tech or clean tech, Cambridge has the infrastructure, networks and people necessary to make transformation happen. This is why our city attracts inward investment, which, alongside exports, will ensure our regional economy continues to grow.

Why does this new way of working work so well in Cambridge?

Working collaboratively to deliver definitive and transformative outcomes, or, as we like to call it, working Cofinitive-ly, works so well in Cambridge because it’s in this city’s DNA. As explained above, this is thanks to our deep tech story and the agglomeration and collaboration this has sown.

Cambridge’s deep tech story

Deep tech is a term coined by Swati Chaturvedi, co-founder and CEO of investment firm Propel(x). According to her definition, deep tech refers to “companies founded on a scientific discovery or meaningful engineering innovation”.

Cambridge is home to many such companies. A birds-eye view of deep tech trends in the next year highlights cybersecurity (think Darktrace) and how to drive value from extreme levels of data (think Geospock). With our range of start-up and established companies working on AI, IoT, identity management, digital transformation, and more, our deep tech story can only grow stronger.

Cambridge’s agglomeration and collaboration story

One reason our deep tech story can only get stronger is that Cambridge is recognised as having a higher than national average percentage of knowledge intensive (KI) businesses[1] and it is such businesses that drive agglomeration, collaboration and innovation.

As reported in CPIER,

“KI businesses have been witnessed to ‘cluster’ together, in a process known as agglomeration. Spill over benefits from business activity benefits other businesses, such that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.”


But why does agglomeration occur so frequently and with such apparent ease in Cambridge?

It’s because we know how to network. Networking is key to collaboration and the biggest piece of advice we can give to anyone wishing to thrive in the Cambridge ecosystem is to ‘work the network’.

Cambridge is uniquely home to many (many) networking groups. These facilitate the collaborations that facilitate the agglomerations.  Our networking infrastructure is world-leading and thanks to the likes of CW, Cambridge Ahead, Cambridge Network, OneNucleus, Agri-Tech East, Cambridge Cleantech, Cambridge China Forum, Impact Women’s Network, not to mention the local Chambers, Institute of Directors and FSBs, as well as the myriad of meetups and drinkabouts, we’re making change happen.

Let’s just pause for a moment though, and consider what would happen if these groups all fostered collaboration between each other and helped to further spread Cambridge’s magic dust.

Here are a couple of short examples of what we’ve witnessed.

  • Cofinitive participated in an event recently showcasing all the best science and technology in Cambridge. We asked two of the companies providing ground-breaking cancer interventions if they knew of each other. They did not. We introduced them.
  • At the same event, we hosted a group representing AgriTech. Our AgriTech delegates could immediately see the applicability of technologies being presented by clean tech and biotech sectors, to their agri sector. When we asked these attendees if their organisations had considered extending their applications to ‘other’ sectors, they said it hadn’t ‘previously’ occurred to them. For both examples, we now wait and see…

Staying with the theme of AgriTech, imagine agglomerating across technologies in Cambridge where the leading minds are creating innovative solutions that could, literally, feed the world. Imagine then supplementing this with a complete cluster of production facilities across the north of the county where 50% of the best agricultural land is. That is agglomeration, networking and convergence at play, benefitting the entire region, and, thanks to SmithsonHill’s pioneering work on its AgriTech park proposal, ARC, it could actually happen.

Moving out of sector specific collaboration into the wider topic of inward investment and exports, let’s look at another example of Cambridge-style networking, this time with China.

Cambridge and China have made many failed attempts to engage over the years, tempered with a handful of success stories (TusPark/ Cambridge Science Park being one). But now, with initiatives like Cambridge China Centre addressing the specific cultural and logistical challenges of doing business with China, Cambridge has before it a phenomenal opportunity.

As Faye, our founder and director, enthuses:

“However you look at it, agglomeration and convergence is a massive opportunity to us on a local and global scale. Joining up companies that we know will add value to each other is truly magical, and so very Cambridge.”


So, what do Cambridge’s deep tech, agglomeration, collaboration and networking stories tell us about the nature of our city?

That over the years, Cambridge has skilled up on the global platform. We have a more diverse range of people here able to fuel the transformative businesses of the future than any other UK city, and diversity is key to this ongoing success.  We need to keep engaging on a broader basis. Wouldn’t it be exciting if we were educating our future workforce on those soft skills, like agile mind-set, to secure more prosperity across our wards and villages?

The more you cross-fertilise the people, the technologies and the skills, the more you’re going to engage diverse minds and the better able you will be to come up with the next set of deep tech solutions.  These are minds that understand and appreciate the arts as much as philosophy; that recognise all walks of life – all demographics.

And that’s why, in Cambridge, you’re 12 times more likely to be employed in the tech sector than in London. And it’s worth remembering, for every tech job created, a further five support roles are created in the local economy. Operate a Cambridge-first supply chain strategy and this local impact could be extended still further.

What’s a Cambridgeshire-first supply chain strategy?

We refer you, once more, to CPIER’s recommendations on our region’s Industrial Strategy:

“We want to find a way that high-value clusters can benefit the rest of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. The answer to this (and here industrial strategy is vital) is to think seriously about complementarity. That is, what goods and services does knowledge intensive (KI) industry need, and how can local business find a high-value role in the supply chain? Technical skills will be needed to maintain advanced machinery. Specialist scientific goods will be needed for research. These companies spend large sums on inputs to their processes, and by pitching themselves at these niches, companies in the rest of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough can reap rewards. Among the respondents to the qualitative survey, only 10.8% of the value of supplies came from their local area (defined as being within thirty miles), whereas 27.8% came from overseas. This represents a missed opportunity.”

Think about it. When we source our supply chain locally, all businesses, sectors, employees and citizens, will benefit. Furthermore, if we adopt this model and show best practise to others, we have an opportunity to become another FOAK – an exemplar of modern economies. Cambridge’s reputation as a safe place to do transformational business will be further bolstered and our region will become even more attractive to inward investors.

How can you benefit from this new way of working?

We want you to #BeCofinitive and help spread the magic dust.

Hopefully, reading this post has given you a few ideas on how to benefit from all that the Cambridge ecosystem has to offer, whilst enabling our city to secure its place on the global map.

  1. Identify the collaboration opportunities that Cambridge’s unique agglomerations offer to your business
  2. Seek out the networks that can help you to benefit from Cambridge’s people and businesses, (and if you’re outside the city – start your own, there’s plenty of us willing to help spread the magic)
  3. Find local providers and clients that can enable a step-change in your business and contribute to our combined economic success by going Cambridge-first, and you can always
  4. Bring in Cofinitive to sprinkle our communications-led magic dust in your direction!


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[1] http://www.cambridgeahead.co.uk/media/1477/corporate-cambridge-1-knowledge-intensity.pdf