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Cambridge Ahead: The Cambridge Corporate Database & Regional Growth


This project concerns the modeling of the growth of businesses in the local region and to feed the results into a regional spatial forecasting model. The model will be used by researchers at the Department of Architecture at the University of Cambridge to model infrastructure constraints and solutions for the regional economy. The project has a number of elements which are described below.

Cambridge growth analysis

The Cambridge Cluster Map

Since the project group’s formation, we have been concerned with establishing an authoritative analysis of the current scale, make-up and growth rate of economic activity in the region, defined by a 20 mile radius around Cambridge. We were commissioned by Cambridge Ahead to create a dashboard to monitor growth in Cambridge using the original Cluster Map created by Sherry Coutu and Trampoline Systems as a starting point. We began by updating and re-verifying the original Cluster Map data, adding in data from sectors outside of high tech and then putting in place curation to keep it up to date. For the first time, there is now a sound and robust measure of the Cambridge economy, and how it is growing, but it should also be possible to wind the clock backwards to see how Cambridge has been growing in the past. 

The Cambridge Cluster Map was officially launched in July 2016 and is a dataset of information on over 20,000 businesses in the Cambridge region. Using the new methodology, it specifically monitors the growth of Cambridge-registered companies, in terms of their global turnover and employment, and tracks the number of Cambridge-active companies, and public and charitable sector research organisations.

View the Cambridge Cluster Map

Cambridge-based companies are those with their primary trading address within this area, or those that do not give a primary trading address but have a registered office in this area. Cambridge-active companies are those who have neither their registered office, nor primary trading address in the Cambridge area but do have a trading address in the area that we have identified, examples being Marks & Spencer and Amazon. Non-corporate Knowledge-intensive (KI) organisations are those research institutions that are located in the defined region which are neither companies, nor partnerships. Examples of these are the British Antarctic Survey, the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, and the University of Cambridge.

The Cambridge Cluster Map is refreshed approximately twice a year and will be updated with wholly new data annually. The first update was published at the end of January 2017 and includes data for 2015-2016 as well as improved functionality.

Find out more about the Cambridge Cluster Map

Growth data

Using unique growth measurement methodology, the projects has so far produced two consecutive sets of growth data for the Cambridge city region, one in February 2016 and most recently in January 2017. The latter shows that the remarkable growth that we revealed for 2014-2015 continued in 2015-2016. The data reveals that the growth of Cambridge companies continued at around seven per cent on a one, three and five-year view. Global turnover of Cambridge companies increased by 7.6 per cent to £35.7 billion, up from £33 billion the previous year, and global employment grew by 7.6 per cent to 210,292. The number of companies with their home base within 20 miles of Cambridge has grown from 22,017 to 24,580. Over the past five years (2010-2011 to 2015-2016) the turnover of Cambridge companies has grown by 7.5 per cent per annum, and employment by 6.6 per cent per annum. 

Turnover and employment in the life science sector grew by 32.1 per cent and 10.5 per cent respectively in 2015-16, and construction and ICT was also buoyant with the former enjoying growth of 11.8 per cent in employment and 7.2 per cent in turnover. Within the Knowledge-intensive (KI) sector as a whole, turnover grew by 10.5 per cent and employment by 6.8 per cent. KI intensity remains high at 34 per cent of turnover and 29 per cent of employment. 

These figures demonstrate the importance of Cambridge, not only to the region, but also the value it offers on a national scale as a net contributor to the UK. As cited by the Centre for Cities, Cambridge was the third fastest-growing city for jobs in the country between 2004 and 2013. 

Read the full press release on the Cambridge Ahead website (January 2017)

The Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough LEP

CBR was commissioned to create a company database for the 14 local authority districts making up the GCGP Local Economic Partnership. This work has been completed and the database includes about 65,000 companies and limited partnerships with their employment and turnover over the last six years. Of these, over 50,000 were alive at the end of the 2015-2016 financial year and together represented employment of 440,000 and turnover of £69 billion. The analyses carried out examine the sectoral composition and growth of each of the local authority districts.

Economic forecasting

We are working with the local authorities to take their current economic model input data and add local understanding to it by using local business and sector-specific expectations rather than national ones. We need to know what businesses think future growth pressures will be and what their growth might be if those pressures were better managed, in order to prioritise the infrastructure initiatives that will need to be taken. Creating such a bottom-up regional growth forecast has never been attempted before, and we have a great learning curve to get round to do it, but it should be very powerful when completed.

For example Cambridge has, with Marshall and its supply chains, a large aerospace component in its economy so the growth expectations of the aerospace sector will feature strongly in the local forecast. Where this breaks down though is that the national forecasts will be dominated by what Rolls Royce’s and BAE’s growth expectations are, which could be very different from Marshall’s.

A survey of the largest companies in the Cambridge area has been carried out. The survey focuses on three aspects: the connections between the Cambridge companies and the rest of the UK economy; local constraints on their growth; and their estimates of their sector’s growth over the next five years. It also asks their opinions about their impact on the economy, government policy and the impacts of Brexit on their growth. This survey will create a bottom-up forecast of how much these companies think their sectors will grow over the next decade. The survey results will also be available shortly.

A further supplementary technical task of comparing the actual and forecasts growth rates of the Councils’ East of England Forecasting Model with the Cambridge Ahead data is also being undertaken.


The Camclustermap with Dr Andy Cosh of the Centre for Business Research (Cambridge TV Business Focus)

One of an ongoing series of Business Focus interviews on Cambridge TV, this is the 12-minute interview of Dr Andy Cosh of the Centre for Business Research (CBR) of the University of Cambridge. The topic is the new version of the Cambridge Cluster Map, created by Cambridge Ahead in partnership with Barclays using data from the CBR. Dr Cosh is asked about the CBR and what it does, what the Cluster Map is and does, how it works, what it reveals about the Cambridge region, growth, the impact of Brexit, and how it is of interest to academic researchers. The interview was first aired on Monday 16 August 2016.

New Cambridge Growth data by Cambridge Ahead (Cambridge TV report)

A package by Cambridge TV on the announcement by Cambridge Ahead of remarkable new Growth data for Cambridge companies. Presenter is Karen Thomas while reporter Holly Goodall visits Cambridge Consultants and interviews COO Eric Wilkinson, before visiting Matthew Bullock, Master of St Edmund’s College and leader of the CA Growth Project where the new Cambridge Cluster Map is also revealed.

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Cambridge Ahead, Barclays and the Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough LEP