The UK’s Hi-Tech Super Cluster has been proposed as the new name for the Oxford to Cambridge Arc to help it attract further investment.
In a debate on the arc’s ‘cluster of clusters’, guests at BucksPropFest on June 6 heard from Roz Bird, commercial director for MEPC’s ti-tech Silverstone Park, how she had worked in several areas within the arc and set up a cluster organisation at Silverstone.
In presenting her vision of the arc, she told the 100 property professionals: “Calling it a corridor or an arc isn’t very inspiring and I feel, from everything I know, that really we should be calling it the UK’s Hi-Tech Super Cluster.”
She said when she first suggested the name, people were frightened by it.
She went on: “Because I know the area, I can tell you I know what’s here and Oxford and Cambridge universities are about 20 per cent of the proposition.
“I know that calling it the super cluster is the right thing because when the EV 100 guys came over to seem me – the top 100 electric vehicle guys in China – one of the first things they said to me was ‘Roz, we love your super cluster. How do we get one in China?’
‘I know they wouldn’t have said ‘Roz we love your corridor. How do we get one in China?’
“There is a lot of power in how we explain ourselves and I think we miss an opportunity by calling it something abstract like the arc.”
Among the clusters within the arc, Ms Bird pointed out some of the high performing ones. They include One Nucleus, the largest biotech cluster in Europe , Cambridge Network which has existed since the 1980s and Cambridge Consultants which has more spin outs than Cambridge University.
She added: “There’s a lot more to this place than just the two universities.”
She reported that Treasury Secretary Robert Jenrick, had told a conference at Silverstone that the area was the innovation capital of the UK.
Andrew Smith, corporate affairs director for Pinewood Studios, based in South Bucks, told how the Government has set a target of doubling the country’s film and production spending to £4 billion by 2025.
It is, he said, the fastest growing sector in the UK economy and agreed there should be more attention to the clusters between the two university cities.
He said: “Drop Oxford, drop Cambridge because they’re getting all the attention.
“Think of this arc, it starts at the doorstep of Terminal Five 5 and it goes north to Northampton. That just shows you the size of that north-south connectivity which will bring success to the arc generally.”
Eman Martin-Vignerte, head of political affairs and Government relations for Robert Bosche Holdings, highlighted a skills shortage. She told the meeting Bosch in Denham, South Bucks, had 140 job vacancies, such as for engineers, but potential applicants could not afford to live in the area.
Fifty five per cent of its staff travelled in from the midlands. She told the meeting other employers nearby had similar issues and wanted infrastructure, notably more housing.
She added: “We are doing our jobs, we would like you to do your jobs.”
© Thames Valley Property No 166 (tvproperty.co.uk).