“Over time a location will decline if it fails to build capabilities in major new technologies,” according to Professor Michael Porter of Harvard Business School, otherwise known as the international guru on clusters.The globe is littered with examples of clusters that became too static and did not innovate, from the Lancashire cotton towns to the rust belt in the United States.
The Cambridge hi-tech cluster is not in this position, but equally it is competing internationally and must not rest on its laurels but rather look to build capabilities in new technologies.
The developing CleanTech sector offers just that opportunity, it continues to grow, at 4-5 per cent pa, at a time when other parts of the economy are stagnating, not least in developed countries.
Furthermore the emerging economies are, through their very development, creating a market for CleanTech products to allow them to expand in a more efficient and greener way. Just cast your mind back to the picture of atmospheric pollution in Beijing before the last Olympic Games.
CleanTech should be viewed in the historic context of the growth of the Cambridge hi-tech cluster; the ICT wave in the 1970s and ’80s was followed by the Life Science wave to the south of Cambridge in the 1990s & Noughties.
CleanTech, with support, can follow as the next wave. CleanTech therefore both complements the existing technologies and furthermore builds on them to extend the diversity, the profile and the global reach of the cluster. The CleanTech sector can be divided into renewables such as wind and photovoltaics, low carbon such as building technologies and alternative fuels and environmental such as recycling and water treatment.
Across Greater Cambridge and the East of England there are several thousand companies in 26 sub-sectors employing approximately 100,000 people. Cambridge Cleantech as the new members organisation for the sector has a database of 1,000 companies alone and 70 per cent of those are CleanTech product or service providers, as opposed to support service companies.
The vision of Cambridge Cleantech is to further develop Cambridge as a leading CleanTech centre in Europe by co-ordinating, supporting and promoting commercial opportunities for our members. After just a few months trading, the membership has grown to over 60 members, more than half of which are CleanTech product or service providers.
Mark Pendlington, director of the Anglian Water Group comments that: “We are delighted to be a founder member of this exciting and ambitious new organisation that will be championing CleanTech throughout Europe and unlocking opportunities for businesses in the Cambridge area, and across our region.
“Innovation that underpins sustainable growth is absolutely key to transforming our economy; to securing jobs and livelihoods; to living securely within the world’s resources; and to keeping this part of the UK a great place to live and work.
“Cambridge Cleantech will quickly become an organisation that features at the heart of many business strategies, and AWG was delighted to have been in at the start.”
Dr Aled Jones, Director, Global Sustainability Institute, Anglia Ruskin University and guest speaker at the recent Business Weekly Awards, also believes the launch of Cambridge Cleantech was timely. He said: “We were delighted to be a founding member of Cambridge Cleantech. Tackling today’s global challenges require a society of innovation and the opportunities created by leading the transformation towards a green economy could be significant.
“This is why we are keen to work with entrepreneurial companies in our region to help unlock some of these opportunities and accelerate this journey.”
Cambridge University is using its membership of Cambridge Cleantech to leverage alliances with what pro-vice chancellor Lynn Gladden calls “a wide spectrum of businesses across the sector.”
• PHOTOGRAPH SHOWS: Martin Garratt, CEO, Cambridge Cleantech. Photograph by Alan Bennett, Media Imaging Solutions
Article written by Martin Garratt, CEO of Cambridge Cleantech, the new membership organisation for the sector