Chapter 2: The Cambridge High-Tech Cluster: An Evolutionary Perspective
Elizabeth Garnsey and Paul Heﬀernan 1. INTRODUCTION New knowledge-based ﬁrms emerge and grow around centres of learning and research. A process akin to ecological succession occurs as resources in the local science base are converted into and attract business activity, giving rise to a richer, more diverse economic habitat. To gain a better understanding of these developments we need to examine how processes of change operate over time. Cambridge provides an exemplar of endogenous formation of a high-tech cluster through spin-oﬀ, agglomeration and institutional adaptation. The importance of the strong science base at Cambridge is universally acknowledged, but the evolutionary micro processes through which its inﬂuence was exerted require further elucidation. Positive externalities providing incentives to ﬁrms to cluster in an area are not necessarily present at the time of the emergence of a new cluster of activity. Explanations in terms of measurable externalities beg the question of the evolutionary processes which gave rise to them. In other high-tech centres (Simmie et al., 2004), spillover eﬀects have resulted from government spending on infrastructure, from large company investments, from metropolitan structures and defence spending on information technology (IT). These inﬂuences were absent in the case of Cambridge. After identifying the conceptual building blocks, we then examine indices of the growth of high-tech clusters in the Cambridge area. Underlying these aggregate trends are self-reinforcing mechanisms involving business spinouts and networks of knowledge diﬀusion. Case studies illustrating these processes, in the clustering of scientiﬁc instrumentation, information and...
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