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Silicon Fen or the Cambridge Cluster is the name given to the region around Cambridge, England, which is home to a large number of high tech businesses focused on software, electronics, and biotechnology, including Arm and AstraZeneca.

The name Silicon Fen originated as an analogy with Silicon Valley in California because it lies at the southern tip of the English Fenland. The local growth in technology companies started with Sinclair Research and Acorn Computers.[1]

Business growth

More than 1000 high-technology companies established offices in the area during the five years preceding 1998.[2] Some early successful businesses were Advanced RISC Machines and Cambridge Display Technology.[1] In 2004, 24% of all UK venture capital, representing 8% of all venture capital in the European Union, was received by Silicon Fen companies, according to the Cambridge Cluster Report 2004 produced by Library House and Grant Thornton.

The so-called Cambridge phenomenon, which gave rise to start-up companies in a town that previously had only light industry in the electrical sector, is usually dated to the founding of the Cambridge Science Park in 1970 as an initiative of Trinity College at the University of Cambridge.

The characteristic of Cambridge is small companies in sectors such as computer-aided design.[citation needed] They are spread over an area defined by the CB postcode or 01223 telephone area code, or more generously in an area bounded by Ely, Newmarket, Saffron Walden, Royston, and Huntingdon.

In 2000, then Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown set up a research partnership between MIT and Cambridge University, the Cambridge–MIT Institute, in order to increase international collaboration between the two universities and strengthen the economic success of Silicon Fen.

In February 2006, Cambridge Judge Business School reported estimates that there were approximately 250 active start-ups directly linked to the university, valued at roughly US$6 billion.[citation needed] Several of these companies have grown into multinationals, including Arm, Autonomy Corporation, AVEVA, and Cambridge Silicon Radio.

In 2012, it was reported that strong employment growth in the Silicon Fen hub was hampered due to its significant concentration on research and development, which was limiting competition in manufacturing and costs.[3]

Cambridge Ahead, the business and academic membership organisation dedicated to the long-term growth of the city and its region, reported in 2015–16, that growth of Cambridge companies was approximately 7% over one, three, and five-year durations. Global turnover of Cambridge companies increased by 7.6% to £35.7bn, up from £33bn the previous year, and global employment grew by 7.6% to 210,292. The number of companies headquartered within 20 miles of Cambridge grew from 22,017 to 24,580.[4]

Area characteristics

The Cambridge Network is an organization facilitating networking in the area.

Other possible factors include a high standard of living available in the county, and good transport links, for example to London and with Cambridge Airport having a full service business jet centre. Many graduates from the university choose to stay on in the area, giving local companies a rich pool of talent to draw upon.[5] The high-technology industry has little by way of competition, unlike say in Oxfordshire where many other competing industries exist. Cambridgeshire has only recently[when?] become a high-technology centre, which has meant that commercial rents were generally lower than in other parts of the UK and thus giving companies a head-start on those situated in other more expensive regions. However, the recent technology boom has changed the situation and Cambridgeshire now ranks as one of the highest costs of living in the UK outside London, which is home to an even bigger technology centre.[6][7]

People and companies associated with Silicon Fen



See also


  1. ^ a b Jones, Kevin (1 December 1998). "US Report: Old Cambridge targets high-tech success". ZDNet. Retrieved 15 December 2011. The focus on technology in the so-called Silicon Fen started two decades ago with Acorn Computer PLC, which became the U.K.'s leading personal computer maker until the advent of Windows. The Fen also spawned a couple of successes, such as Advanced RISC Machines Ltd., a virtual chip designer; Cambridge Display Technologies Ltd., a monitor maker [...]
  2. ^ Ibrahim, Youseff M. (4 January 1998). "In Old England a Silicon Fen: Cambridge as a High-Tech Outpost". The New York Times. Retrieved 13 June 2012.
  3. ^ Andersen, Christian; Bailey, Jonathan; Heal, Adam; Munn, Oliver; O'Connell, Bryan (4 May 2012). "IT Hardware cluster: Cambridge, United Kingdom" (PDF). Final Paper; Microeconomics of Competitiveness, Harvard Business School. Harvard Business School. Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 June 2012. Retrieved 18 June 2012.
  4. ^ "Latest data from Cambridge Ahead reveals unabated growth of Cambridge companies". Cambridge Ahead. 24 January 2017. Retrieved 14 May 2017.[permanent dead link]
  5. ^ "5 Reasons Cambridge is Great for Students". Top Universities. 3 November 2016. Retrieved 19 November 2019.
  6. ^ "Cambridge". Cost Off Living. Retrieved 19 November 2019.
  7. ^ Ranger, Steve (15 January 2014). "First came the artists, then came the hackers: The strange history of London's own Silicon Valley". TechRepublic. Retrieved 19 May 2021.