East & West – local clusters make the connections nationally and beyond
Cambridge at the start of this week to catch up with our friends at Cambridge Wireless – Silicon South West is partnering with the network on the Discovering Start-Ups competition (London 21.11.12) this year. Cambridge is ‘rocking’, new residential estates are being built all along the A10 as I drive in and the city-centre is bursting with students and their families from around the world for the start of the academic year. Cambridge is undoubtedly a global ‘premier league’ innovation brand so I’m always pleasantly surprised by how welcoming they are to ‘out-of-towners’ like me! The Silicon South West network has had a 5 year partnership with Cambridge Wireless and we’ve run countless events, exchanged speakers and contacts, even won a TSB R&D grant on the Internet of Things together. Deeply collaborative people. Similarly, a following meeting with Dr Shailendra Vyakarnam of Cambridge’s Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning quickly leads to some concrete ideas for projects we could work on together. Cambridge has the knack for combining strength and pride in its city identity while being open to the world for business. I’m sure that this is often a difficult and delicate balance, but it’s clearly worth the effort – the Cambridge Phenomenon shows that the town has a 1,000 technology and biotechnology company cluster which has attracted more than 40,000 people to stay and work. You’ve got to be globally connected to achieve that kind of growth.
Carrying these thoughts I return to the West to attend the first birthday celebration of the the Bristol and Bath Science Park and hear Will Hutton of The Work Foundation on co-creation and open innovation. The Science Park team has done an amazing job here. High occupancy in the Innovation Centre attracts activity and helps create a real buzz around the place. Plus the building looks beautiful, bright and optimistic. Hutton’s a ‘big character’ in UK public life and his attendance at the celebrations proves that the Science Park gives the Bath/Bristol tech cluster a place where we can finally assemble, plug into and maybe even influence the national innovation debate. Those fabulous networking dinners in the college dining halls of Cambridge attract the world’s leading entrepreneurs and innovators. Isn’t tremendous that we now have a place to bring them to in the West as well? VentureCannibalism