City analysis: Cambridge has double the average UK tech density

Orla Browne, May 23, 2018 3 min read

As Tech Nation on Tour comes to Cambridge, we’ve spoken to figureheads of local tech, as well as Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury Robert Jenrick about the local findings from our Tech Nation Report 2018, in a national context.

This year’s report found Cambridge to be one of eight cities in the UK with a higher than average digital density.

Cambridge has double the digital tech turnover of the average UK city, which means that the city relies to a much greater extent than other locations on tech sector employment.

When we look at the number of jobs in the city, there are 15,503 digital tech jobsCambridge, which is home to some of the fastest growing tech companies in the UK like Future Fifty company Darktrace, and Upscale alumni GeoSpock, has a digital tech sector turnover of £2.4bn. 

By looking at digital tech turnover by employee – the proportion of digital tech turnover that is attributable to each worker – we can see that it is a huge £152,000 compared to a UK average of £99,000.

Finally, business births – the number of new companies started in the digital tech sector each year – reached 145 in Cambridge last year.

Robert Jenrick, Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury said:  

“Cambridge is home to some of the UK’s fastest growing tech companies, with over 15,000 digital tech jobs and a turnover of £2.4 billion. It’s a city bursting with ideas and potential and we want to support these innovative businesses that are helping to create our new economy. We are investing £21 million over the next four years to make Britain a ‘Tech Nation’, boosting and connecting burgeoning new tech firms so we can create new jobs across the country.”

Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury Robert Jenrick speaking at Tech Nation on Tour Cambridge

The Treasury Minister also spoke this morning at our Tech Nation on Tour event at the Bradfield Centre, the beautiful new home for innovative startups and scaleups in Cambridge Science Park. The co-working space, run by Central Working will run accelerator programmes, as well as providing flexible space for companies that is perfect for their fast-paced growth.

When it comes to challenges, we’ve heard from the community that running a business from Cambridge isn’t always easy. The top three challenges identified by Cambridge entrepreneurs in our Tech Nation survey of over 3,400 people were: cost of living, access to talent and Brexit, indicating that Cambridge may rely more heavily than other locations on overseas talent. Interestingly after Cambridge, the only other UK city to state Brexit as a top three challenge was London.

Laurence Garrett, partner at Highland Europe, who lives near Cambridge and has invested in many Cambridge-based companies including the likes of Starleaf, CSR, and Ubinetics, said:

“Investors are always keen to stay close to tech startups founded in Cambridge because they have some of the most exciting ideas and talented people in Europe, not just the UK. The startup community here is full of talented, farsighted people and I have no doubt that more great companies will be built from here over the next decade.”

Tech Nation on Tour  – Cambridge, at The Bradfield Centre

We also measured Meetups in Cambridge. Two of the most popular tech meetups, with more than a 1,000 members, are on data science (including AI and machine learning) and the internet of things, indicating how Cambridge’s tech scene is thriving at a grassroots level.

Poppy Gustafsson, who is CEO (EMEA) at Darktrace, says:

“The research that goes on in Cambridge is second to none, and our Cambridge HQ is where the machine learning behind our world-leading technology is being developed. Being based here allows us to recruit some of the best machine-learning specialists in the world.”

While Cambridge has a long list of attractions to tech companies (and investors) the ability to hire skilled workers is really important for many of the businesses that are based here. The University and its research (and research students) provides constant refreshment to the pool of talent in the city.

Dr Steve Marsh, CTO of GeoSpock, the five-year-old company that processes millions of data points in seconds, says:

“It’s only natural that GeoSpock kept our global headquarters near the source of world-class technical talent coming out of the University and with Cambridge’s long history of DeepTech innovation, coupled with the incredibly supportive entrepreneurial network – there are few ecosystems more suited to building the next big thing.”

Cambridge, East of England, Tech Nation Report 2018