Cambridge medical technology pioneer Sir Greg Winter has identified a winning formula for the UK’s leading innovation cluster – keep business collaborations up close and personal.
Sir Greg says Cambridge has to recognise that broader interface between science and industry at a local level is the secret to attracting more enterprise to the Cambridge area.
He is sure that’s one of the key reasons AstraZeneca decided to relocate its global HQ to the Cambridge Biomedical Campus. And that lights the way for others in future, he says.
In an interview in Cambridge Science Park’s Catalyst magazine, Sir Greg – master of Trinity College, the park landlord – stresses the importance of small startup companies to the success of a cluster.
He says: “Firstly, it’s possible that the small startups themselves may develop into big companies, like ARM has done. But even if they don’t they may eventually help to reel other companies or new talent into the Cambridge area.
“It’s partly why one of my interests for years has been to try to support small companies in Cambridge and I currently advise F-star and Bicycle Therapeutics. We’ve seen some really interesting new companies grow and develop on Cambridge Science Park and we’re trying to think of ways in which we can support startups even more.”
While the Innovation Centre at the science park is thriving, providing flexible workspace, Trinity is also looking into the viability of a further multi-occupancy building, Sir Greg disclosed.
“It might help to attract startup companies if we could get some kind of seed fund involved so that these new companies could get investment at this crucial early stage. We’re exploring several ideas, including how to improve informal networking between the companies.”
Sir Greg also calls for a change in approach to technology transfer of ideas into the commercial arena.
He said: “Clearly getting ideas out of a university and turned into successful commercial applications is actually quite difficult. We have technology transfer institutions which are focused on supporting this kind of activity. Here we have Cambridge Enterprise, which is probably one of the best organisations of its kind in the UK.
‘Nevertheless, I think one of the dangers is that technology transfer is becoming rather formal and institutionalised. In my experience, business tends to happen as a result of personal interactions and this is a model that I’m very much supporting.
“It’s also very cost effective – relatively small sums of money can be spent to build good connections between individuals in academia and individuals in industry. If a company knows that coming to Cambridge means it is going to have a very wide range of personal interactions it certainly helps to make it an attractive location.
“So I believe the broader we can make the interface between science and industry at a local level, the better chance we have of attracting enterprise to the Cambridge area as a whole”
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