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Cambridge Ahead: The Cambridge Corporate Database & Regional Growth


This project concerns the modelling of the growth of businesses in the local region and providing the data for the Cambridge Cluster Map. It also involves feeding the results into a regional spatial forecasting model used by researchers at the Department of Architecture at the University of Cambridge to study infrastructure constraints and solutions for the regional economy. The various elements of the project 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 data from sectors outside of high tech and extending the coverage to all companies, however small; 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-based companies, in terms of their global turnover and global 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 last update was published at the end of May 2018 and includes data for 2016-2017.

Find out more about the Cambridge Cluster Map

Growth data

Using unique growth measurement methodology, the project has so far produced three consecutive sets of growth data for the Cambridge city region, one in February 2016, one in January 2017 and most recently in May 2018. The latter shows that the remarkable growth that we revealed for 2015-2016 continued in 2016-2017, despite the Brexit vote in June 2016. Global turnover of Cambridge-based companies increased by 14.7 per cent to £43.3 billion, up from £37.8 billion the previous year, and global employment grew by 9.6 per cent to 224,762. The number of companies with their home base within 20 miles of Cambridge has reached 24,649. Over the past six years (2010-2011 to 2016-2017) the turnover of Cambridge-based companies has grown by 9.1 per cent per annum, and employment by 6.9 per cent per annum.

Turnover and employment in the life science sector grew by 17.9 per cent and 8.2 per cent respectively in 2016-17, while the ICT sector enjoyed growth of 15.8 per cent in turnover and 7.8 per cent in employment. Within the KI sector as a whole, turnover grew by 16.2 per cent and employment by 5.1 per cent. KI intensity remains high at 32 per cent of turnover and 27 per cent of employment.

These figures demonstrate not only the importance of Cambridge 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.

The Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough LEP

The CBR was commissioned to create a company database for the 14 local authority districts making up the GCGP Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP). This work has been completed and the database includes about 70,000 companies and limited partnerships with their employment and turnover over the last seven years. Of these, 49,000 were alive at the end of the 2016-2017 financial year and together represented employment of 458,000 and turnover of £77 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 are seeking to discover 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 allows for a bottom-up forecast of how much these companies think their sectors will grow over the next decade. In a nutshell, the survey results suggest that travel to work problems, along with the high cost and limited availability of housing, are affecting recruitment and retention of staff while impinging on productivity. These problems are also identified by companies as major factors limiting their growth in the Cambridge region. Despite these constraints, companies remain quite optimistic about their growth prospects, but are very concerned about the Brexit negotiations.

A further supplementary technical task of comparing the actual and forecast growth rates of employment from the Councils' East of England Forecasting Model (EEFM) with the Cambridge Ahead data is being undertaken. A similar comparison is also being conducted with employment growth rates from the Business Register and Employment Survey (BRES) maintained by the ONS.

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Independent Economic Review

The Cambridgeshire and Peterborough economy is of national and international significance, comprising some of the fastest growing areas within the UK and internationally competitive industry, innovation and research. At the same time, it faces a number of challenges, constraints and imbalances that could hinder growth in the region if these are not properly addressed.

The purpose of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Independent Economic Review (CPIER) is to create a single strategic position to help the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough area consider the case for greater fiscal devolution and powers to unlock the delivery of major infrastructure. The CPIER is led by the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Independent Economic Commission (CPIEC) and is co-funded by the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority, the Combined Authority's Business Board (formerly the GCGP LEP) and Cambridge Ahead.

Drawing on the corporate database as a unique source of information for businesses in the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough area, the CBR has been producing a number of analyses to support the work of the CPIEC. These include novel and in-depth studies of the corporate anatomy, foreign ownership and ownership changes, business demography and specialness of the corporate sectors in the Combined Authority and in each of its local authority districts.

2017 draw


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.

Cambridge 105 Radio: Cambridge businesses continue to grow

Julian Glover speaks to Matthew Bullock, Vice-Chairman of Cambridge Ahead and Master of St Edmund’s College about newly published data showing growth …

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Cambridge News: Closing the gap between rich and poor key to region’s future

Bridging the gap between the rich and poor is key to the region’s future prosperity, according to a new report. The interim …

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Cambridge News: Big names form commission to study Cambridgeshire economy

The Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Independent Economic Review (CPIER) has been commissioned to review the economy in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. Economist Dame Kate Barker, …

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Cambridge Network: New data reveals remarkable growth of Cambridge companies

New Cambridge growth data released by Cambridge Ahead highlights a record of remarkable growth during 2014/15, with Cambridge companies enjoying a 7.7 …

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Project status


Project dates



Cambridge Ahead, Barclays and the Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough LEP