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CEO and co-founder of Healx.
According to recent figures, Cambridge’s technology sector is booming and the city is emerging as a hub for biotech companies.
Cambridge has emerged as one of the top hubs for biotech companies in the United Kingdom. It’s even acknowledged as the nearest thing Europe has to Silicon Valley, thanks to its status in science and innovation (1). The geographical clustering of companies has led to the southern tip of the English Fenland (coastal plain in eastern England) being dubbed ‘Silicon Fen’-a collection of tech companies focused on software, adtech (advertising technology), fintech (financial technology), electronics, and biotechnology.
According to the Office for Life Sciences’ Bioscience and Health Technology Sector Statistics 2018 report (2), the UK life sciences industry employs 248,400 people in 5870 businesses and generates a turnover of £73.8 billion (€86.1 billion). Published in May 2019, these figures demonstrate how critical the life sciences sector is to the economy. Furthermore, ever-increasing global health challenges, such as the ageing population and antibiotic resistance are set to make this industry boom. As healthcare demands continue to rise so too does the strain on the healthcare system, making the need for technology within this space evermore integral.
In 2004, 24% of all UK venture capital (9% of all the European Union's) was received by Silicon Fen companies, according to the Cambridge Cluster Report 2004 produced by Library House and Grant Thornton (3). And according to research commissioned by the Digital Economy Council (4), over half of Cambridge’s population works in the technology sector-making this location one of the biggest employers in the UK.
Looking more globally, Cambridge is widely perceived as the third most significant biotech hub in the world, after San Francisco’s Silicon Valley, and Boston’s Massachusetts Cluster (5). How can Cambridge close the gap on its rivals in the United States? Cambridge University’s long tradition of entrepreneurial researchers has resulted in the Cambridge Cluster, an ecosystem organically developed from academics joining Cambridge biotech start-ups whilst feeding back into academia. The significance of this ‘culture of ideas’ is a tradition of being both an academic and an entrepreneur, and having a network to support this path.
With all of this in mind, here are five of what I believe to be the most exciting biotech companies bubbling out of Cambridge’s ‘Silicon Fen’:
1. Information Age, “The New Silicon Valley-How Europe is Quickly Becoming a Tech Haven,” information-age.com, Press Release, March 15, 2019.
2. Office for Life Sciences, “Bioscience and Health Technology Sector Statistics 2018,” gov.uk, London May 2019.
3. Im+m, “Silicon Fen,” immagic.com, Article [accessed Jan. 15, 2020].
4. Tech Nation, “A Bright Tech Future,” technation.io(2019).
5. A. Gale, “Can Cambridge Become the World’s Leading Biotech Cluster?” managementtoday.co.uk, Article (December 2018).
6. Global Genes, “RARE Facts,” globalgenes.org, Infographic [accessed Jan. 15, 2020].
7. Healx, “Healx Secures $56m in Series B Financing, Launches Global Accelerator Programme for Rare Diseases,” healx.io, News Release, Oct. 16, 2019.