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Cambridge and Manchester launch new cross-UK innovation cluster to boost growth

A progressive new partnership between the innovation clusters in Cambridge and Manchester aims to boost investment in both cities and across the UK.

The link-up will draw on the strengths of both cities to help them accelerate the scale-up of businesses and create new local jobs in sectors critical to the UK's future prosperity.

Innovate Cambridge, established by founding partners Cambridge Enterprise, Cambridge Innovation Capital and the University of Cambridge to champion the Greater Cambridge innovation ecosystem, and ID Manchester, a joint venture between The University of Manchester and Bruntwood SciTech that is set to become a world-leading innovation district, are launching a strategic partnership to build on the existing links between the two science and tech hotspots.

This collaboration, starting this month (October 2023), will connect Manchester’s rapidly growing tech scene, the UK’s largest outside London and the South East (Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, 2022) to Cambridge’s established ecosystem, which last month (September 2023) was named the most intensive science and technological cluster in the world for a second year running by the Global Innovation Index.

Despite the geographical distance between them, the two cities already have a close relationship in this space. Major science and tech firms co-locate in both city regions including life sciences giant AstraZeneca, chip designer Arm and global streaming platform Roku. The University of Cambridge and The University of Manchester have strong ties, including collaborating on major national research and development initiatives such as the Henry Royce Institute and the Productivity Institute. There are also strong ties between the investment communities, through Cambridge Angels and Manchester Angels.

The ambitious collaboration has the backing of the mayors of Greater Manchester and Cambridgeshire & Peterborough, Andy Burnham and Nik Johnson, as well as Manchester City Council leader Bev Craig and Cambridge City Council leader Mike Davey. The proposals also support the Government’s ambitions for the UK to become a science and tech superpower. The vision for the alliance is to ensure benefits are felt by local communities in both cities.

The first step in boosting links between the regions will include setting up physical hubs in both cities to strengthen and accelerate collaboration between researchers and entrepreneurs and act as a gateway to both ecosystems.

The partnership will also map the ecosystem of connections as it expands across academia, business and civic society, and work with the Department for Business and Trade, the government’s Office for Investment and local partners to identify options for attracting joint inward investment and co-location opportunities.

Underpinning the partnership is a shared commitment from both cities to an inclusive innovation-led growth agenda, leveraging business and political leadership, and accelerating growth in critical sectors like AI, digital tech, advanced materials, and health and biotech. The partnership will accelerate economic growth locally, regionally and nationally, and translate world-leading research into new jobs.

In Cambridge, Manchester will find a hotbed of innovation and commercialisation, with 23 billion-dollar unicorn companies born in the city. The University of Cambridge is also the number one university in the world for producing successful tech founders, ahead of the likes of Harvard and MIT, with over 500 alumni founders raising more than $10 million in funding.

In Manchester, Cambridge will benefit from the dynamism of Manchester’s growing innovation ecosystem. Last year the city was recognised as the UK’s leading regional tech city (CBRE, 2022) and it’s also home to the fastest-growing university spin-out population in the UK (Beauhurst, 2023). The University of Manchester was recently named number 1 both in the UK and Europe, and second in the world for social and environmental impact (Times Higher Education Impact Rating, 2023). It’s also the most popular university in the UK for undergraduate applications (UCAS 2021 cycle), and the most targeted university by the UK’s leading employers (The Graduate Market, 2023).

Innovate Cambridge was launched in 2022 as an ambitious Greater Cambridge initiative that aims to collectively agree on and define an inclusive vision for the future of Cambridge and its innovation ecosystem to be implemented over the next decade. ID Manchester will see The University of Manchester's former North Campus transformed into a 4 Million square foot innovation district, combining the University's world-class research strengths with the experience of Bruntwood SciTech, a 50:50 joint venture between Bruntwood and Legal & General, in delivering connected science and technology infrastructure.

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