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Guest blog: Leading entrepreneurs on issues affecting the Cambridge technology cluster.

How to tell if you are really onto the next ‘big thing’

Ian Shott, Managing Partner of Shott Trinova LLPThese days it seems that everyone has an idea that will change the world. The internet has done great things for the proliferation and dissemination of ideas, and it has made starting a business a lot easier.

Wearable technology a materials goldmine

Dr Peter Harrop, chairman, IDTechExIn 2025 over $25 billion will be spent on formulations and intermediate materials for wearable technology, as forecast by Cambridge UK technology analyst IDTechEx in the brand new report ‘Wearable Technology Materials 2015-2025’.

Splurge, purge and debt

Will-Mooney-2014After the excesses of Christmas and in the face of the January sales, Will Mooney, Carter Jonas partner and head of commercial and professional services in the eastern region, shares his thoughts about our legacy of splurge and purge.

Holiday pay and overtime

Abi-TrencherWhen does overtime worked by employees have to be included in the calculation of holiday pay? Where it is either guaranteed or non-guaranteed overtime Bear and others v Fulton and others (and conjoined cases).

Undervalued and overlooked: Norfolk’s mid-sized businesses need more support

Andrew-Robinson-BDODespite their fundamental importance to the economy, mid-sized firms are under-valued and overlooked.

Horace Darwin the first Cambridge tech entrepreneur

Shai-VyakarnamWe know about Charles Darwin and his contribution to our understanding of evolution. A less well known contribution is that of his youngest surviving son – Horace Darwin.

I suggest he is probably the first technology entrepreneur of Cambridge because he started a business in 1881 with his friend (and business angel) Albert George Dew-Smith. This business was Cambridge Scientific Instruments.

Horace grew up in an amazing family, other than that many of them were rather sickly. He and his brother were encouraged to go and wander around the hills of Wales to develop themselves and their confidence. 

Horace also decided he did not want regular education and persuaded his father to have him individually tutored. Not having had a classical education he only just made it into Trinity having taken a Little-Go – an examination held at Cambridge University in the second year of residence and also known as ‘the previous examination’ because it precedes by a year the examination for a degree.

This is where he learnt physics and mathematics to build on his natural curiosity. His first instrument was actually for his father – to measure the growth rate of plants.

Horace was growing up at a busy time. It was the Victorian era, blazing ahead with inventions from all round England and Scotland. It was at the height of a self-confident empire. He was part of the environment, especially when he left Cambridge for a few years to work for a civil engineering firm in Kent. This is when, probably, he brought his training at Cambridge, natural curiosity and new skills in engineering together, so that when he returned to Cambridge he was able to start Cambridge Scientific Instruments on Lensfield Road.

The legacy of this company and its founders is quite amazing. It was a first and excellent role model for others in the University to grasp the notion of commercialising their research. This was slow – but it was a first seed. 

It also demonstrates the porous boundaries between pure and applied research and how scientific progress needed instruments and that instruments could only become available under market conditions. 

In 1886, W.G.Pye left Darwin’s company to set up a competing business and this grew in different directions, becoming a manufacturer of radios and later of televisions. People who worked at Pye learnt their management skills and eventually found their way into other new firms, especially after Pye was closed down by Philips. 

The talent pool, the culture and the deep links into science and engineering are probably the three main legacies because in due course all this spawned the Cambridge Phenomenon.

The red thread of the business history of Cambridge perhaps starts with Horace Darwin’s company in 1881, then progresses to Pye and via Chris Curry who worked at Pye migrates to Sinclair and Acorn – and then the rest is even more history!


Introducing the Fit for Work Service

Martin Brewer, an employment law specialist with Mills & ReeveA new Government funded service will launch shortly to help people with a health condition return to work. The recently published specification throws up a number of issues of concern to employers.

Securing the future: Using predictive analytics to seek out hidden threats

Sean Newman, Security Strategist, CiscoThe only thing that you can be certain of in life is, that nothing is certain. For thousands of years the human race has tried to prove otherwise.

Wyke Farms claims first social media trademark

Kitty-RosserWyke Farms is certainly not the first business to use social media as part of its marketing strategy but it does claim to be the first to have secured a trade mark registration based on the popularity of a social media campaign.

Wearable technologies and glucose monitoring What's next?

Raghu-DasIn 2012, 347 million people worldwide had diabetes according to the World Health Organization. Disposable glucose test strips have improved the lives of millions of diabetic patients who need to monitor their blood glucose level on a regular basis.

Need for financial education never been more paramount

Ken-Bird of Mattioli WoodsFrom next April, savers will be able to use their pension money as they see fit, from the age of 55. Whilst we are happy to spend time finding cheaper car insurance or the best deal on our utility bills, do we have the confidence to search for the best solutions for our retirement?

Digital technologies king on manufacturing throne

Andy-NeelyWith a new wave of technologies on the horizon, such as 3D printing, self-healing materials and nanotechnologies, the Cambridge Service Alliance thought it was timely to see how, in practice, manufacturing companies were putting that technology to use, and which technologies they thought were most influential in bringing about improvement to services for their customers.

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