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16 March, 2012 - 09:26 By Tony Quested

Cambridge entrepreneurs fund new Science Centre

Prime mover - Dr David Cleevely

A trio of leading serial entrepreneurs in Cambridge – David Cleevely, Hermann Hauser and Jonathan Milner – have kickstarted a seed funding round launched today by the Cambridge Science Centre in the UK.

The campaign was launched with the venture’s successful registration as an educational charity and the raising of initial seed capital.

The 12-month fundraising campaign is intended to secure funds for three years of operations leading to the set-up of the Science Centre in central Cambridge.

This will coincide with the assembly of a significant Board of Trustees representing key communities within Cambridge and the UK science centre industry.

The maiden cash backing has come from three musketeers of the Cambridge technology cluster. Dr Hauser is reigning Silicon Valley Visionary of the Year. He founded the legendary Acorn Computers and now helps run VC firm Amadeus Capital Partners.

Dr Milner is CEO of antibodies powerhouse Abcam in Cambridge. He also has his own personal angel investment portfolio.

Dr Cleevely, chairman and founder of several Cambridge tech plays, is also founder and chairman of the Centre for Science and Policy at Cambridge University.Cambridge Science Centre founder Dr Chris Lennard said enough funds had been raised so far to cover the first six months of operations in 2012 against this year's budget of £250k.

Talks are ongoing with other potential investors on the basis of which Dr Lennard says: “We will declare the first specific goal (2012 target) of our capital fundraising campaign towards £5 million over the next three years based around the results of ongoing discussions with potential early backers. We expect to be able to be more specific on that number in April or early May.”

The first members of the Board of Trustees include Dr Cleevely, John Short, chairman of law firm Taylor Vinters, and Dr Goéry Delacôte, CEO of @Bristol 2006–2012 and executive director of the Exploratorium San Francisco 1991 –2005.

When complete with a target of seven members, the Board of Trustees will be a powerful and balanced group with a proven track record in scientific excellence, business management, regional development and science communications.

David Cleevely said: “Situated at the centre of UK technology and research, it’s time for Cambridge to seize the opportunity to develop a world-class centre for hands-on experience in the sciences.

“The Cambridge Science Centre team has a great long term vision and they sold it to the seed backers with their solid short-term goals. I’m proud to back this initiative and support it as a Trustee.”

The Cambridge Science Centre will be a permanent exhibition and cultural hub in central Cambridge which showcases local scientific discovery, supplements formal education and inspires the public to get more involved in science and technology.

The funds raised will allow the start-up team to develop pop-up exhibitions and educational programmes, host public events, acquire and create science outreach kit and manage a schools engagement programme leading up to the opening of the Centre by summer 2014.

While its programmes and exhibitions will emphasize the multidisciplinary nature of scientific discovery, initially the Centre will pay particular attention to the life and biomedical sciences.

Jonathan Milner said: “From Darwin to the Human Genome Project, life science research in Cambridge has profoundly impacted biological and biomedical research.

“However, I feel the general public should be much better informed about how their day-to-day lives have benefited. With a science centre in Cambridge dedicated to public scientific outreach, we can develop exhibits and educational content which will have a world impact. I am really excited to help this team start on this development.”

Immersed in a city alive with scientific research and technology development, the Cambridge Science Centre will collaborate with local top-notch researchers to develop its exhibitions and help bring the public and research closer together. The management team has spent the past twelve months building key relationships with industry partners, research and academic institutes around Cambridge.

Hermann Hauser said: “Cambridge is the recognised hub of science and technology innovation in the UK. However, if you are a family at a loose end on a rainy Saturday afternoon, where do you go to immerse yourself in this scientific excellence?

“We need to improve accessibility. Cambridge and the wider community deserves a general public science venue where school groups, families, individuals, teachers and tourists can play with science and scientific thinking on their terms and on their schedule. I am backing the Cambridge Science Centre and their team because I believe they have the vision and business skills to make this happen.”

• If you are interested in learning more about the Cambridge Science Centre, contributing to the fundraising effort or helping through in-kind support, you can find out more about the campaign and its goals at:  www.cambridgesciencecentre.org/get-involved/

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