Innovation and Sustainability in a Historic City: The Cambridge Case
World Bank e-Institute


Innovation is one of the key drivers of economic growth and urban transformation. Since the 1970s, the ancient university city of Cambridge in East Anglia has been a European pioneer in technology enterprise and has been emulated in many other places seeking to promote innovation. However, in spite of its scientific excellence and unparalleled number of Nobel Prize winners, the emergence of technology clusters in Cambridge was both unexpected and unplanned. Elsewhere, a presence of strong scientific base is just one among many factors driving technological innovation. Other contributory factors include government spending and initiatives (e.g., in Sophia Antipolis), corporate spending and spin-outs (e.g., Munich and Stockholm), military budgets (e.g., Toulouse and Bristol), and metropolitan influence, as in London and Paris. What makes Cambridge unique is that the factors contributing to the emergence of technology clusters elsewhere were largely absent—with the critical exception of public investment in science. The case study of Cambridge illustrates both the strengths and limitations of self-organized clustering in a laisser-faire policy environment. Limitations include infrastructural deficiencies with eco-innovations lagging behind business innovation. Since the financial crisis, government has recognized the importance of expert-intensive technology industry in spurring economic growth and the need for proactive policies. In this seminar, Professor Elizabeth Garnsey traces the emergence of high-tech Cambridge and shows how early spin-outs from the university were followed by the inflow of innovative businesses and the creation of a highly skilled and specialized technology labor market which has drawn more innovative companies and investors to the area. Old divisions between ‘town and gown’ are giving way to collaborative efforts from the community, universities, and local authorities to support environmental innovation and urban transformation. Lessons will be drawn for other cities seeking innovation and sustainability.

About the Speaker:

Dr. Elizabeth Garnsey is Affiliate Faculty at the Judge Business School, Cambridge University and a member of the Centre for Technology Management at the Institute for Manufacturing, Cambridge University. She works closely with small and large high tech companies, and has experience on the university-industry interface, on support for new business in incubation centers and science parks and on acquisition by and joint ventures with larger corporations. She has been advisor to the Bank of England, the Treasury and the Confederation of British Industry. She has worked on the Shell Springboard Programme for young environmental companies. In 2011 she was a Visiting Professor at the National University of Singapore (NUS) and is engaged in on-going work with NUS colleagues. Her research interests include: environmental policy and practice; technology transfer and disruptive innovation; technology enterprise, particularly in clean technology, biopharm and new materials; business development and complexity studies; and institutional innovation.



Event Information
Wednesday, Jan 23 2013 at 10:00am [ iCal ]