The Cambridge “phenomenon”

As some people might be aware,  I used to have a fixed interest in Silicon Fen back in the 1990s and indeed was told off for this obsession by a member of teaching staff from my local school.

Having actually been to Cambridge however, I am sad to say that, in addition to other factors, any illusions I may have had as to the reality of Cambridge are completely dispelled. To be entirely fair, I am not for the most part going to state what I think nor indeed relate my experience of Cambridge.

Instead, I am going to take quotes from  the wikipedia article concerning the so called Cambridge phenomenon, (a term which is to my mind has always struck me as rather silly) and comment upon them. I think the article can be regarded as impartial, given the fact that Cambridge would be keen to correct any inaccuracies in the article for commercial and reputational reasons and given the fact that the owner of wikipedia, Jimmy Wales, is friends on facebook with someone who is deemed to be the founder of the “phenomenon”, Dr Herman Hauser.

I feel sure that he would no doubt either have corrected any errors himself or asked others to correct them given that the article constitutes an important advertisement for the “phenomenon”.

The so-called Cambridge phenomenon, giving rise to start-up companies in a town previously only having a little light industry in the electrical sector, is usually dated to the founding of the Cambridge Science Park in 1970: this was an initiative of Trinity College, Cambridge University and moved away from a traditional low-development policy for Cambridge.

To be fair the fact that it was Trinity who actually founded the phenomenon is often overlooked.

The characteristic of Cambridge is small companies (as few as three people, in some cases) in sectors such as computer-aided design. Over time the number of companies has grown; it has not proved easy to count them, but recent estimates have placed the number anywhere between 1,000 and 3,500 companies. They are spread over an area defined perhaps by the CB postcode or 01223 telephone area code, or more generously in an area bounded by ElyNewmarketSaffron WaldenRoyston and Huntingdon.

This is in a large geographical area then with lots of small companies. To be honest it sounds not dissimilar to Southern Beirut.

In February 2006, the Judge Business School, Cambridge University reported estimates that suggested that at that time, there were around 250 active start-ups directly linked to the University, valued at around US$6 billion. Only a tiny proportion of these companies have so far grown into multinationalsARMAutonomy Corporation and AVEVA are the most obvious examples, and more recently CSR has seen rapid growth due to the uptake of Bluetooth.

This is admittedly a relatively old report but although there are no doubt many more companies, none of the multinationals concerned are British owned any longer.

The concern should be that this is apparently the premiere technology cluster within the UK and one of the premiere clusters within Europe. After half a century in which some fairly modest-sized British multinationals have arisen, these are now all foreign owned.

It may be regarded as harsh medicine no doubt to have stated this and “unfair” and “impolite” and not “the Cambridge way” but with the best will in the world, it would be difficult to describe Cambridge as a phenomenon or indeed an example to follow.

It is in fact as far as I can see an example to be avoided if one is serious about wishing Europe to be an innovation and technological powerhouse.

Although there is much hype (and it is hype which I fell for) in relation to Cambridge, for the relatively small global impact of the phenomenon, the university and in particular Amadeus Capital Partners seem to consider that they have the right, with the assistance of the intelligence services and in the manner of a parasitical vampire squid, to prevent other universities in other countries, from maybe achieving what it has proved unable to achieve. In the process, it feels it has the right to disrupt the lives of those who might like to form part of such an effort.

In this respect and notwithstanding his own point of view on the matter, it is rather difficult to understand how it can be reasonable and not be taken as a very obvious conflict of interest to allow an individual such as Hermann Hauser to be chair of the European Innovation Council whilst he is involved in a venture capital firm which  he co-founded and which openly bats for the United Kingdom.

As a consequence, it is perhaps difficult to ascertain why other countries of indeed the European Research and Innovation Council can support such a situation and expect to be taken seriously, particularly given the fact that the United Kingdom is leaving the European Union.

With respect to Amadeus, the following tweet appeared today and yesterday whilst I have been stating (elsewhere) that

  1. Elements within the British state, most notably the intelligence services are, whilst pretending to look after the interests of the perso on the left, in actual fact looking after their own interests in a manner which is comparable to the mafia and blaming him for having their own actions.
  2. It is potentially the case that the person on the right forms part of that effort

In this respect, the above tweet

  1. Does not exactly help the reputation of the individual concerned.
  2. Appears, given a) the facial expression, b) the fact that what I write in relation to them is relayed back through surveillance and the usage of the term “godfather” to be a statement that in actual fact that Dr Hauser is directly responsible for directing the harassment and that perhaps the suggestion that Alex Van Someren was in some way responsible is amusing.
  3. Sadly does nothing much to dispel the impression that some would like to reinforce of a British mafia in charge of European innovation and by extension security
  4. Confirms the impression which he would apparently wish to dispel that Cambridge is place for certain people, namely an arrogant elite.
  5. Does make him sound like Jimmy Saville an individual who described himself as the Godfather and also reminds me of this episode of Sherlock



And with respect to Cambridge and Europe more generally, I rather get the impression that they would not be all that concerned if what was outlined in Micromen were to be repeated as it is being.



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