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18 July, 2018 - 20:46 By Tony Quested

Bradfield Centre startups capture the spirit of Cambridge Science Park’s visionary founder

James Parton Bradfield Centre Cambridge

When Central Working opened the doors to The Bradfield Centre at Cambridge Science Park last year, managing director James Parton predicted: “If we get this right this place will explode.”

So if you thought that was a stray thunder clap you heard breaking the heatwave the other day think again – it was the explosion Parton had anticipated at the co-working capital of Cambridge.

Three Chinese companies are now members, including Tuspark Investment Management Ltd, part of The Tuspark or Tsinghua University Science Park. The parent business, Tuspark Holding Limited, is a Chinese high-tech company which builds business parks. It has buildings in Zhongguancun of Beijing, in Kunshan, Suzhou, Jiangsu and in Nanjin  – and now it is constructing a bespoke biotechnology innovation hub at the Science Park itself.

The Chinese cohort is contributing to the buzz and bustle as international businesses mingle with Cambridge and UK counterparts at The Bradfield Centre.

The centre opened in the spring of 2017 and by December was already filling up fast: the rate of memberships has kicked on further since the turn of the year but there is still plenty of room for new joiners. More than 60 tech businesses from this region, the UK, Europe and China are now ensconced. 

As soon as any newcomers enter the atrium the rattle & hum of activity and high achievement will hit them: They will rub shoulders with people with a purpose working for companies with potential – and all seemingly with big grins on their faces. 

People from companies based elsewhere at the huge Science Park – even employees from businesses at corporate locations based across the Milton Road troop there daily for natter or nachos. 

Variety is on the menu whether they are seeking collaboration with startups and scale-ups based at Bradfield or attracted by an eclectic range of food and an idyllic lakeside setting.

When Trinity College, the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and Central Working got together to conceive the £20 million centre the aim was to create a stimulating environment that could potentially produce the next Arm out of Cambridge.

Bradfield Centre Cambridge Science Park desksMore than 300 entrepreneurs have since caught the mood and already some of the technology-centric tenants have doubled – even tripled – in size. Many are raising growth capital from their dynamic new home – witness Spectral Edge which recently raised $5.3m in series A funding from previous investors, Parkwalk Advisors and IQ Capital.

The image processing firm combines cutting-edge imaging tech with machine learning to provide sharper pictures and videos on mass-market devices. Spectral Edge’s tech has a wide range of applications, including mobile, security, and live video streaming. It is expanding its team and its product suite from its home at Bradfield.

Rhodri Thomas, CEO of Spectral Edge, said: “We moved out to The Bradfield Centre in January and are delighted with the decision. It is a great working environment and the team enjoys working here. It is the ideal place for us to grow and prosper during this phase of the company with a great location, friendly environment and excellent facilities.”

Rhodri Thomas Spectral Edge
Spectral Edge CEO, Rhodri Thomas

Across the spectrum of specialisms of tenant businesses, raw research is daily being translated into commercial successes, catching the spirit of the great Sir John Bradfield after whom the venture was named. 

Sir John – Trinity’s former senior bursar – was the visionary who set up the Science Park in 1970 – the first in Europe – and also pioneered the Felixstowe Docks, also a UK and European leader in its field.

Besides Spectral Edge, other standout startups at The Bradfield Centre include:-

  • String, provider of the augmented reality technology behind the Dulux Visualiser mobile app, relocated to Cambridge from London last year and has since trebled its space since moving into The Bradfield.
  • Cambridge Spark, a spin-out of the Department of Computer Science and Technology at the University of Cambridge, recently won a £550k innovation grant from Innovate UK to further develop its data science assessment technology, and have doubled its team size.
  • MIG has released a string of well-received brand and customer experience analytics products, grown its technology team five-fold – from five to 25 people – and is expanding its space for the third time to allow them to continue growing.

The striking Bradfield Centre building overlooking newly landscaped gardens and lakes is already nurturing the kind of deep tech innovators – spanning AI, machine learning and virtual reality – that is starting to revolutionise product design and service delivery.

Innovative

Central Working, a UK-leading innovative workspace provider in its own right, has a terrific pedigree. It established the Google Campus and runs numerous workspaces in London. 

In fact, James Parton allowed himself at one of our get-togethers lakeside to muse: “Wouldn’t it be nice if Google and Facebook woke up tomorrow and realised that 50 minutes from their hi-tech London bases they could take some modest space here and have access to all the prodigious talent driving an incredible array of ambitious and game-changing startups from the innovation capital of Europe? Hopefully they will.”

The 40,000-sq ft centre offers airy workspaces with communal areas and facilities including meeting rooms, 100-seat auditorium, a café and licensed bar, showers, kitchens with complimentary tea and coffee and  unlimited wifi. Not only that, the centre is open 24 hours, seven days a week – and it’s open to all. That includes your dog if you’re a member. Membership starts at £149 a month for hot-desks; then there are desks in open spaces, plus private offices. 

Bradfield Centre Cambridge Science Park nightAn open air auditorium is already being used for shows and demos and can be used for art exhibitions or musical presentations.

Business Weekly will be featuring a range of tenants in the coming weeks to demonstrate the diverse nature of businesses they cover.

The UKBAA selected the centre as its East of England Angel Hub, and a wide range of other organisations including Cambridge Angels, Cambridge Wireless, Cambridge Network, Tech Nation and Tech East are all running events and encouraging their members to network at the centre.

More than 180 entrepreneurial events have been held, attracting over 7,000 attendees. The Central Working team intimately understands each member’s business, which has enabled them to make over 1,000 meaningful introductions for Bradfield Centre companies, leading to more than 200 direct collaborations since opening.

The Bradfield Centre will also be home to the exciting Trinity Bradfield Prize – a new bi-annual prize for entrepreneurial students across Cambridge University supported by Sir Gregory Winter. 

The initiative will provide a £10k cash prize to the winning team and complementary space at The Bradfield Centre for the team to develop their ideas. They will benefit from all The Bradfield Centre has to offer, plus expert mentoring from the Trinity Alumni network.


Sir Gregory Winter

James Parton said: “We’re delighted that The Bradfield Centre has hit the ground running. We have quickly delivered on our goals of providing high quality workspace for scale-ups in Cambridge, providing the connections, support and education to fuel our members growth, whilst forging strong links into the university to support and encourage student entrepreneurial activity. 

“With these fantastic foundations laid, we’ll now be turning our attention to enhancing our community programming, strengthen links with technology communities across the UK and around the world, and working with strategic corporate partners who can help accelerate the growth of the businesses based here.”

Rory Landman, senior bursar of Trinity College, added: “The Bradfield Centre has made its mark as a thriving hub for tech entrepreneurs. It’s an exciting place to be, with plenty of opportunities for impromptu exchanges. 

“This reflects the college environment in which people meet, ideas cross fertilise and the unexpected can happen.”

• PHOTOGRAPH SHOWS: James Parton, managing director of The Bradfield Centre at Cambridge Science Park

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