Bill Gates: Cambridge cluster an ‘inspiring reminder of human ingenuity’

By Rachel Holdsworth - 08 May 2012

The growth of a technology cluster that has had a profound impact on our lives is celebrated today by the launch of a new book.

In the foreword, Bill Gates KBE, Microsoft founder and philanthropist, states "the phenomenon of Cambridge is an inspiring reminder of the great power of human ingenuity to make life better and more productive for all of us".  

The Cambridge Phenomenon: 50 Years of Innovation and Enterprise, is launched today at the University of Cambridge Senate House.

Charles Cotton, founder and chairman of Cambridge Phenomenon Ltd, came to the city when he joined the ‘Micro-men’ Clive Sinclair and Hermann Hauser in the early 1980s, shortly after the launch of the world’s first affordable home computer.

He says that the book showcases the game-changing events that have helped drive a technological revolution: “From home computers to motion-driven video games, from the smallest radio set to the wireless internet, from ‘test-tube’ babies to block buster drugs, the sheer variety of innovation is what makes Cambridge unique.” 

Cotton says that the book – which charts the companies and people that have fulfilled the prophecy made in the 1960s of the "white heat of technological revolution" – provides many learning points, not least the key ingredient of a "Cambridge Spirit" that promotes cooperation for a greater goal.

Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, vice-chancellor of the University of Cambridge, agrees and says that the contribution of technology to quality of life is as important as the economic benefits.

“Major breakthroughs such as sequencing the human genome, which heralded a new generation of healthcare, and the affordable personal computer, upon which a generation of school children became computer literate, are just two of the many contributions that Cambridge ideas have made to the world. 

“The University of Cambridge has facilitated technology transfer by encouraging entrepreneurship among academics.  This has been highlighted in the book as one of the success factors for the cluster.”

Author Kate Kirk says that another key factor was the role of Cambridge Consultants, established in 1960 by Tim Elioart and David Southward.

The company is widely believed to be the catalyst behind the development of the Cambridge Phenomenon and identified in a groundbreaking report of the same name in 1985.

“The development of the ‘soft-start’, where technology was nurtured by a technology consultancy before it was spun-out as a company, helped launch a number of Cambridge companies, the first of which was Domino, the inkjet printing company, and more recently CSR (Cambridge Silicon Radio.)

"In a similar way, ARM, Cambridge’s best-known company was a soft-start from Acorn Computers.”

Warren East, CEO ARM says: “ARM chips are found in more than 95% of smart phones in existence worldwide.

"We hope that ARM is also showing how companies can be socially responsible. Partnership is at the core of our business and a high level of trust increases our ability to innovate. 

"Employees have the freedom to experiment and share ideas which is an embodiment of the Cambridge spirit that is captured so well in this book.”

The book is a joint venture with Third Millennium Information Ltd (TMI), which has built an enviable reputation publishing beautifully designed and illustrated books.

Joel Burden, Managing Director of TMI, says: “We were delighted to work with the Cambridge Phenomenon team on this fascinating and ground-breaking project. A wonderful, richly illustrated book has emerged which sits proudly alongside the very best of our work both in Cambridge and beyond.

“The book reproduces rare archive material, previously unpublished images and stunning new photography. It is brought alive by cameos and anecdotes and brings the living history of the Cambridge technology cluster right up to current times."

The Cambridge Phenomenon is available to purchase and more information is available on: 

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