Written evidence submitted by Cambridge Ahead (PEG0242)
Executive Summary 1
Guiding Principles for the UK Recovery Strategy 4
Action to Aid the Achievement of these Principles 7
Translation of the Industrial Strategy into Post-Pandemic Recovery Strategy 9
Securing the Workforce Needed to Deliver Sustained Economic Growth 11
Local Governance to Deliver Growth Effectively 14
Cambridge Ahead welcomes this opportunity to share recommendations for a post-pandemic growth strategy. The Cambridge economy has grown from strength to strength as an innovation powerhouse over the last six decades. It is an internationally renowned science and technology cluster generating £51bn turnover a year, GDP per worker of £59,751 per annum, and as a city region making a significant positive contribution to the UK’s public finances. Perhaps of even more importance is the contribution that the Cambridge eco-system makes to overcoming the biggest challenges our society faces, underlined this year by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The footprint and reach of the Cambridge economy goes far beyond the city boundaries, with networks and relationships growing, particularly across the OxCam Arc. The success of the Cambridge economy is of critical importance to Government because:
These guiding principles should be taken forward within the UK Recovery Strategy and can be translated into delivery through several proposals that are put forward in this submission:
Securing the workforce that we need depends on our ability to continue to attract the best talent from across the globe, at the same time as empowering local skills systems to build the pipeline of homegrown talent.
The inquiry raises the question of determining the local governance that is best equipped to deliver growth. In the Cambridge area the context for this includes recent Government announcements to create Development Corporations, as well as the experiences of working within a particularly complex system of authorities and agencies. These local arrangements are not well-designed to best deliver sustained economic growth. Since this inquiry was established, the Minister of State for Regional Growth and Local Government has made a series of public statements relating to the forthcoming Devolution and Local Recovery White Paper. We look forward to understanding further how these new principles within the White Paper will respond, as a priority, to the needs of the Cambridge economy, and for the benefit of the wider region Cambridge lies within.
In summary, the national importance of our area’s economy was recognised in the recent Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Independent Economic Review. Ensuring that the remarkable success of our economy continues over the coming years and decades is all the more critical now, given the impacts of Covid-19 on the national economy, and the particular strengths that our clusters brings in the very areas that will be most critical for the global recovery from the pandemic. However, there is a real risk that these benefits will not be realised if the proposals we set out here are not taken forward.
This year marks the sixtieth anniversary of the Cambridge Phenomenon. The explosion of knowledge intensive industry that began in 1960 and was first noted as a phenomenon by the Financial Times in 1980, has now persisted through six decades. The most recent annual data published by Cambridge Ahead showed that the Cambridge economy is now worth £51bn of turnover per year, employing over 250,000 people. This innovation powerhouse is fuelled by world-leading academic institutions, and clusters in technology and life sciences which grow in size and global reputation apace. In the last year alone Cambridge-based technology and life sciences companies grew their employment base by 16% and 8% respectively. GDP per worker in Cambridge City is £59,751 per annum.
Unsurprisingly this means that Greater Cambridge is one of the minority of places that is a net financial contributor to the country. In 2014/15 The Cambridge economy generated an estimated £3bn in taxes for the Exchequer, double the £1.5bn cost of public expenditure here. (NB: if Greater Cambridge’s share of national budgets like defence and international aid are taken into account, public expenditure is still only £2.4bn compared to the £3bn tax take).
Understanding why and how the Cambridge economy has grown so successfully, its place within the regional and national picture, and what should be done to ensure continued sustainable growth, were the aims of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Independent Economic Review (CPIER), Chaired by Dame Kate Barker, published in 2018. The CPIER made a series of recommendations to Central Government, Local Authorities, and industry in order that the economic growth potential of Cambridge is realised and spread to the benefit of the region and the country.
Cambridge Ahead is a business and academic member organisation dedicated to the sustainable growth of Cambridge, spreading the benefits of the economy over a wider region over the long-term. It represents 48 of the most influential organisations in Cambridge and the surrounding region, representing a collective workforce of over 40,000 people.
Since the publication of the CPIER, Cambridge Ahead has worked closely with local and national authorities in support of their statutory duties, to implement the Review’s recommendations which were unanimously agreed upon by Local Authority Leaders in the Combined Authority Growth Ambition Statement in 2019.
Since the outset of the pandemic Cambridge Ahead has focused on understanding from the business and academic community how the growth priorities identified in the CPIER now relate to our economic recovery context, and what new priorities have emerged. The following response considers the questions asked by the Super-Inquiry with this background. Further research and analysis on the impact and implications of the pandemic on the Cambridge economy have been commissioned by Cambridge Ahead, and these will be shared with national and local policymakers as they become available over coming months.
Guiding Principles for the UK Recovery Strategy
In order to achieve the full potential of the Cambridge economy, to the benefit of regions across the UK, Government’s guiding principles in the national recovery strategy should be to:
The leading role that the Cambridge economy, and the wider business and academic community stretching across the OxCam Arc, has played during the fight against COVID-19 has been an exemplar of the “global Britain” policy for the UK to “take a leading role in responding to the global challenges and in making the most of opportunity for our country.” The difficult circumstances of the pandemic have brought the sixty years of the Cambridge Phenomenon into the stark focus of the challenges and opportunities we all face in 2020.
The prominence of Cambridge is clear from the national and international headlines that have been generated by medical research and technical innovation, a range of examples relating to Cambridge Ahead member organisations have been collated here; https://www.cambridgeahead.co.uk/news-media/covid-19-advice-information/supporting-the-nhs/. This prominence is borne out too through recent data. The latest financial data for March to May 2020 demonstrates that investment into the UK life sciences sector, which is centred within the so called Golden Triangle of London, Oxford and Cambridge (and within that is centred around Cambridge), exceeded the same period last year – which itself was a record-breaking year.
However, the powerhouse of the Cambridge economy could and should be doing much more to spread prosperity and enhance the quality of life experienced by all communities within the Cambridge region as well as across the whole of the UK. That is the strategic objective at the heart of Cambridge Ahead, and research has been commissioned by Cambridge Ahead, and undertaken by RAND Europe, to understand the factors that are most significant in translating economic success into quality of life. This research is available at; https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR4435.html.
Case Study: Cambridge economy contribution to levelling up the UK
AstraZeneca is at the forefront of the international action to develop and produce at scale a vaccine for COVID-19, doing so from its global headquarters in Cambridge and in partnership with Oxford University. This clearly exemplifies the very best of the global innovation economy located in the OxCam Arc, but the reach and benefit of this across the whole country is often much less obvious.
As well as the 3,500 employees at the global HQ in Cambridge, AstraZeneca has a substantial medical development and manufacturing presence in the North West, over 400 academic collaborations with institutions across the UK, and indirectly supports 38,000 jobs over the country. The majority of these jobs are outside the Cambridge area.
To ensure the long-term success and competitiveness of the UK economy, Government will need to adopt a “UK or overseas” mentality within its national recovery strategy. As a priority this should be applied to the development of trade deals following the UK departure from the EU. These trade deals should ensure that the best people from across the world (not just the EU) can come to Cambridge to bring the specific skills our innovation economy needs. The Global Talent Visa is a welcome policy development in this regard, however the eligibility criteria should be expanded to allow highly skilled scientists, researchers and entrepreneurs from across the globe to come to the UK.
The UK is currently home to many world-leading clusters of knowledge intensive industry. Many of the companies in these clusters are at risk over the course of a recession not because of their inherent business model, but because of reduced market/customer spending over a prolonged period. The major risk to the long-term UK economy is that if the country loses these assets during the recession, they may be impossible to recreate. Assessing this issue in 2018 the CPIER identified this issue in a Cambridge context. The Review found that “large international businesses have based themselves (or established a presence) in the region… many of these businesses report that their alternatives to being based around Cambridge are outside the UK, in similar clusters in Europe, America or Southeast Asia. Therefore, there is clearly a high national significance to these industries in this area: they bring in business that would otherwise look abroad.” On these findings, the Review concluded “the UK Government should adopt a ‘Cambridge or overseas’ mentality towards knowledge intensive business in this area, recognising in an era of international connectivity and footloose labour, many high-value companies will need to relocate abroad if this area no longer meets their needs.” In a recession context this recommendation is even starker as the “micro” local pressures that might drive companies to relocate, largely because of insufficient infrastructure and unaffordable housing in Cambridge, found by the CPIER are now combined with “macro” issues arising from a dramatically more turbulent and uncertain global market.
Linked to the above principle of maintaining strategic economic assets, we propose that Government considers how the recession affects the policy ambition to level up the UK as a whole, reducing inequalities and increasing opportunities within places that have found themselves left behind in recent economic cycles. We believe there are opportunities, and Greater Cambridge could be an exemplar, to spread and share the benefits of high-performing economies to more communities across the country.
Economic powerhouses are often highly centralised around cities, having the effect that high levels of inequality are masked within and near to those cities. In a Cambridgeshire and Peterborough context this can be seen in plain terms. As well as the visible pockets of affluence in this area, there are 62 communities that rank within the 20% most deprived places in the country, three of which are within Cambridge City itself.
Levelling up means tackling inequalities and deep-rooted societal challenges wherever they exist. The sustained economic growth and spread of the Cambridge economy will create more jobs for communities that need them across the OxCam Arc and beyond in many other UK regions.
Case Study: Cambridge economy contribution to levelling up the UK (2)
Volac is a fast-growing and ambitious international business who are world leaders in dairy nutrition. Their mission is to pioneer ways in which dairy nutrition can help to solve global farming and food production challenges.
Volac began in 1970 as a collaboration between a dairy industry entrepreneur and a veterinary student. Through a series of pioneering scientific and manufacturing advances since then, Volac has grown to be an international company with headquarters in the Cambridge region and manufacturing and production facilities in Felinfach and Port Talbot in Wales, Liverpool, and Sleaford. There are further Volac production facilities in County Meath in Ireland and Gresik in Indonesia.
Volac employs around 350 people within the UK, and 70% of these are outside of the Cambridge region.
The Government should also recognise the opportunity and necessity for the response to this recession to be a green recovery. This should be focussed upon support to local areas to achieve their carbon reduction and biodiversity gain ambitions, through spatial planning and development choices but should also direct investment and support to research and innovation which has the potential to bring forward transformational technology to the benefit of the UK and the world.
The R&D Roadmap is a welcome and positive development in relation to these principles. The ambition to prioritise strengths in research, science, and innovation is a welcome recognition of the important of economies like Cambridge in a national and international context. The internationally competitive nature of clusters like Cambridge attract significant inward investment into the UK, and this flow of significant global investment is an important asset to consider as part of the levelling up agenda. Government should look to Cambridge, within the context of the OxCam Arc, to pilot the UK R&D Place Strategy to ensure that innovation systems “make the fullest contribution to the levelling up agenda.” The CPIER outlined how Cambridgeshire and Peterborough as a region is a “microcosm of the UK” and as such, represents an ideal location to shape and test strategies to spread the benefits of high-performing innovation economies across more communities.
action to aid the achievement of these principles
Specific action recommended to Government to achieve recovery strategy principles are:
In Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, the independent analysis of the CPIER and the national/local co-production of the Local Industrial Strategy have established the investment that is needed to support the growth of the Cambridge economy and how this is connected to the growth of nearby economies like Greater Peterborough and the Fens. Many of the priorities identified through this recent work have been heightened by the pandemic.
Understanding of these priorities is driven first by a close monitoring of what is really happening on the ground in the local economy. The CPIER found that there are significant differences between the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reporting of employment growth in the region and that captured by the Centre for Business Research at the University of Cambridge. In 2018 the CPIER recommended that “it is important to establish a sound employment database to inform key decisions. The ONS should continue to work with the Centre for Business Research (CBR) to clarify why differences exist between the two sources of employment growth rates.” These conversations have not been concluded and the most recent 2018/19 data again illustrated the difference between these datasets. Government should prioritise efforts to monitor employment rates in high-growth areas like Cambridge by using the most effective data methodologies to best understand the needs of such areas.
This is a long-standing issue that has been compounded in Greater Cambridge over recent years, where the mismatch in data has meant that growth has outstripped infrastructure investment and planning. As such a significant infrastructure deficit has accumulated. This deficit has constrained the growth potential of the local economy, limiting the overall growth potential as well as limiting its spread over the region. The infrastructure deficit is such that lack of delivery will continue to constrain growth in the post-pandemic context. The priority infrastructure schemes identified in the Local Industrial Strategy remain the priorities for post-pandemic growth:
In order to maintain the international competitiveness of the Cambridge economy Government has rightly acknowledged that world-class research and development activity must be supported, so that the pipeline of innovation stays secure and competitive. In this context it is vital that the UK continues to be part of cutting-edge international research programmes, such as Horizon 2020.
The creation of the Future Fund was a welcome aspiration from the Government to quickly provide financial support to start-ups, spin outs, and other innovative smaller business to help them to weather the immediate shock of the pandemic. Looking to the long-term needs of this sector though, as the Office for Talent develops funding packages to meet the R&D Roadmap objective of “Providing long-term flexible investment into infrastructure and institutions” it should engage with successful innovation ecosystems in places like Cambridge, where the interactions and collaborations across these institutions have generated prolonged success. Crucially in the case of Cambridge, it is the maturity of the ecosystem to be able to translate ideas into commercial and societal value that has driven economic outputs. It is by understanding the power of whole-system innovation that Government will best design funding support packages that achieve the ambitions of the R&D Roadmap.
Zero Carbon Aircraft – New Whittle Laboratory and the Cambridge Green Mobility Ecosystem
For the last 50 years the Whittle Laboratory, in the University of Cambridge, has been the world’s leading jet propulsion laboratory. This centre of excellence extends across the Cambridge eco-system, as demonstrated by Faradair’s July 2020 announcement that it will move its headquarters to Cambridge to develop the world’s most environmentally-friendly aeroplane. The Faradair Bioelectric Hybrid Aircraft is scheduled for its first maiden flight in 2023-24, and will enable quiet, green, regional air transport for all.
Proposals for the development of the New Whittle Laboratory and the National Centre for Propulsion and Power which it houses, should be supported by Government to ensure that the UK leads global efforts to develop zero carbon flight. Working across its network of UK industry partners and universities, the New Whittle Laboratory will meet the Government’s aim of both levelling up and delivering a zero carbon economy by 2050.
Translation of the UK Industrial Strategy into new post-pandemic Recovery Strategy
Government should maintain key aspects from the Industrial Strategy within new recovery strategy. Recommendations are that:
The Industrial Strategy was developed in collaboration with business and local areas, and much of the framework this process established is still relevant in planning for post-pandemic growth.
The Cambridge innovation economy is at the forefront of many of the priorities identified in the Industrial Strategy. This not only speaks to the presence of world-leading clusters in Cambridge, but more widely highlights that the knowledge-intensive, highly-productive, and future-facing, nature of the Cambridge ecosystem mirrors the blueprint for where Government wants the UK economy to be heading. Key elements of this to be taken forward into recovery strategy are:
Case Study: Cambridge’s strength in Artificial Intelligence and Data Grand Challenge
Cambridge start-up AI VIVO, has used cutting edge machine learning techniques to dramatically accelerate the path to find effective drugs to treat COVID-19. AI VIVO successfully identified dexamethasone as a drug with high potential 10 weeks ahead of its adoption by the NHS as a clinically proven treatment.
Its AI-powered prediction engine took just 15 days to rank 90,000 compound models in order of efficacy and identified a shortlist
Spun out of the University of Cambridge and now based at Cambridge Science Park, AI VIVO is a team of molecular biologists, system pharmacologists, control engineers utilising AI techniques to pioneer medical advances.
Government should absolutely prioritise certain sectors within a national recovery strategy. Existing sector deals should be updated, and new sector deals should be considered. Key criteria for prioritising support to sectors should be:
The Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Local Industrial Strategy (LIS) 2019, developed upon the evidence base of the CPIER, used these criteria to identify the following sectors as “a partner within the Oxford to Cambridge Arc”:
Latest data commissioned by Cambridge Ahead continues to show the dynamic growth potential of the Life Sciences and Technology sectors (which are most relevant to the Cambridge economy from those listed from the LIS above):
Government should maintain a sector-based approach to the recovery strategy, and within Cambridge Government has the opportunity to strengthen internationally strategic economic assets at the same time as spreading prosperity to more communities. As referenced earlier, a pragmatic way to achieve this would be for Government to look to Cambridge, within the context of the OxCam Arc, as a pilot for the UK R&D Place Strategy.
securing the workforce needed to deliver sustained economic growth
Securing the workforce that the UK economy needs depends on our ability to continue to attract the best talent from across the globe, at the same time as empowering local skills systems to build the pipeline of homegrown talent. In order to achieve this Government should:
Employers across the Cambridge economy continue to cite the current and future provision of skilled workers as one of their largest concerns. The CPIER reported that “consultation using employer surveys and engagement revealed widespread discontent among businesses with the skills system.”
This workforce demand spans a range of sectors and professions but is driven in large part by the demand for highly skilled workers within our knowledge intensive industries. 75% of all new UK vacancies in life sciences are located within golden triangle that links the OxCam Arc with London.
We welcome the recent commitments from Government to continue to attract the brightest and best from around the world to the UK to learn and work. The ability to continue to do so over recent decades has been a foundation of the Cambridge Phenomenon and the Cambridge economy relies upon highly skilled workers.
However, this need not be at the expense of investing in the development of homegrown talent. The Cambridge economy also has a rich history of investment skills development from local communities.
Case Study: Homegrown Talent – the Importance of Apprenticeships in the Cambridge Economy
This year Marshall of Cambridge marked the centenary of its flagship apprenticeship programme. Over that time 20,000 young people have begun their career with the firm as apprentices.
The leading aerospace engineering and automotive industry firm marked this centenary by launching a new Marshall Apprenticeship Centre. This Centre will extend the range of courses available at the firm to include degrees, professional management training and education, along with accredited qualifications within aviation and other industries.
Apprenticeships are highly valued in developing industry leaders within Marshall. In 2019 former Marshall Aerospace and Defence apprentice Haydn Jakes beat competition from across the globe to win gold at the World Skills Championships in Russia.
Programmes to develop homegrown talent like this can play a major role in spreading the benefits and opportunities of successful economies to less affluent communities, and the necessity in doing so over a period when attracting international talent to the UK is less assured is also recognised.
Fundamentally, local areas need to be empowered and incentivised to bring institutions together so that young people, and their parents, have a much clearer line of sight to the career paths and training opportunities that are open to them. It is this holistic approach across all forms of education (primary, secondary, further, and higher), employment and civic community at the heart of current initiatives in Greater Cambridge and across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.
Government should achieve this by:
Government strategy for post-pandemic growth must focussing upstream on the choices that young people make about their future career. New research by RAND Europe published this year from Cambridgeshire and Peterborough (jointly commissioned by Cambridge Ahead, One Nucleus, Cambridge Regional College, the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority, the Greater Cambridge Partnership, and a number of individual employers) has mapped and analysed the provision of career guidance in the region’s schools.
This research finds that current provision is failing to adequately meet the needs of young people as well as the needs of businesses:
The research study makes a number of concluding recommendations, of which the following are most relevant for Government consideration:
With regard to supporting the creation and uptake of apprenticeships, Cambridge Ahead has recently made a submission to the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Apprenticeships, making the case for the following:
Local governance to deliver growth effectively
In the March 2020 Budget, Government announced its intention to establish Development Corporations in the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough region, one of which would be “at Cambridge.” This announcement, alongside the further announcements regarding the OxCam Arc, and continued governance difficulties experienced locally have prompted Cambridge Ahead consideration of this question now asked by the Super-Inquiry.
Local governance arrangements in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough are complex. Government policy, through the recent creation of a City Deal, and then a Mayoral Combined Authority within a two-tier local government county, has evolved to create a multi-layered system with responsibilities and remits often overlapping over geographical and organisational boundaries.
Questions raised publicly by local leaders since 2018, and still publicly unresolved, have led to the delay of priority schemes, including the delivery of key transport infrastructure, that are crucial to the Cambridge economy. Even following recent Ministerial review and endorsement of specific elements of the local governance system through the GCP Gateway Review, the overall system is not functioning and collaborating effectively – as is being seen publicly by local, national, and international audiences.
In order to consider the question posed by this Super-Inquiry, within our local context, Cambridge Ahead has looked to the CPIER (2018) and the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Local Industrial Strategy (2019) and the principles that these recognised documents set out. From this, we propose that there are five key principles, and associated tests, that should guide policymakers in determining the most appropriate governance to delivery sustained growth.
Principles and Source
Key Test for Governance
CPIER “Key Recommendation 13: New collaborative ways of working need to be developed, which provide for tailored solutions to the needs of each of the three distinct economies. Whilst overall strategic direction for the area rests with the elected Mayor, there needs to be effective representation for each economy – though the needs of each vary. The Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP) provides a ready-made solution for the Greater Cambridge area, Opportunity Peterborough fulfils a key economic function for Greater Peterborough, and we would recommend creating a new body to represent the economy of the fens.”
CPIER “Key Recommendation 7: A package of transport and other infrastructure projects to alleviate the growing pains of Greater Cambridge should be considered the single most important infrastructure priority facing the Combined Authority in the short to medium term.”
LIS priority “Improve the long-term capacity for growth in Greater Cambridge.”
CPIER “Key Recommendation 8: A process for scheme prioritisation and development should be implemented in full to ensure that the overall approach reflects the goal of doubling the size of the Combined Authority economy, and over time better connecting the economies of the three areas.”
CPIER “Key Recommendation 12: Regular meetings should be set up between those developing the Local Industrial Strategy, and those developing Market Town Masterplans, to ensure consistency. This should include proposals coming forward as part of the Cambridge-Milton Keynes-Oxford Arc.”
LIS priority “increase sustainability and broaden the base of local economic growth.”
CPIER “the Commission reached the conclusion that the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough area is not one, but three economies – the Greater Cambridge area, the Greater Peterborough area, and the fens. Boundaries are fuzzy, and don’t align clearly with local authority districts.”
LIS priority “expand and build on the clusters and networks that have enabled Cambridge to become a global leader.”
CPIER “Key Recommendation 14: The Government should recognise the benefits further devolution to Cambridgeshire and Peterborough would bring, and commit itself to negotiating with Cambridgeshire and Peterborough to bring the area firstly into line with other Combined Authorities and secondly to breaking new ground in the devolution revolution.”
The first conclusion to be drawn from these governance tests, in Cambridge Ahead’s assessment, is that the current arrangements serving the Cambridge economy – whilst having undoubtedly brought more investment into the area, and brought much-needed focus on the needs of “left behind” places like Market Towns –are not well designed to best deliver sustained economic growth.
It is our view, from our engagement within our Membership and with external observers, that the evolution and iteration of this local system over time has led to a design which is too vulnerable and indecisive. This, therefore, is not an optimum governance system for delivering local economic growth, particularly in areas experiencing rapid economic growth and change. Looking ahead at the intense economic challenges we will be facing during a lengthy global recession these governance issues gain even more bearing and significance.
Assessed against the five governance tests above, our judgement of current arrangements is that they:
The second conclusion is that the creation of Development Corporations, as put forward by Government, could potentially offer some temporary progress against these tests, but crucially:
These governance questions are of critical importance – to ensure that the Cambridge economy, and the other functional economic areas identified by the CPIER, can achieve their full potential during extraordinarily challenging times. Strong and effective local leadership of these areas must treat the importance of outcomes for these communities equally. Within this, the Cambridge economy will create high-value jobs, cutting edge innovation, and GVA at a level which national, as well as local, leaders should pay particular attention to.
Since this inquiry was established, the Minister of State for Regional Growth and Local Government has made a series of public statements relating to the forthcoming Devolution and Local Recovery White Paper. We look forward to understanding further how these new principles within the White Paper will respond to the needs of the Cambridge economy, and for the benefit of the wider region Cambridge lies within.
 https://www.cambridgeahead.co.uk/cambridge-cluster-insights/ - CBR 2018/19 data
 https://www.centreforcities.org/data-tool/ - Centre for Cities, 2018 data
 https://www.greatermanchester-ca.gov.uk/what-we-do/research/research-investment/ - ESPRESSO Tax and Spend Tool