The Cities Outlook 2012 report published last week tips Cambridge as one of five ‘cities to watch’. The report credits the city’s dynamic private sector, high number of skilled residents and ‘knowledge workers’ (lawyers, accountants, and so on) with bucking the national trend and propelling the city into this position. For those of us living and working in this great city there is little surprise in this finding.
The Silicon Fen began to emerge as a growing force in business innovation in the 60s and now is one of the most important global technology centres with over 1,600 high-tech companies. The Meerkats and Avatars event at St John’s Innovation Centre in December showcasing some of the extraordinary innovation being born of these companies was truly something to see.
Many of these companies have a connection with Cambridge University and one measure I believe that’s missing from the Cities Outlook index is the extraordinary learning environment that feeds this ‘city to watch’.
Not only do we have one of the world’s most acclaimed universities, we are fortunate enough to have some of the best maintained and private schools in the country, injecting bright young talent into its entrepreneurial business environment.
It is, of course, impossible to measure the true impact and contribution of education and, along with many other schools, the Stephen Perse Foundation does not believe that measuring schools’ success by exam results alone has any meaning other than in league tables. The real value of education is its ability to inspire its students so that as individuals they aspire to achieve great things in their professional and personal lives and this may include joining the ranks of entrepreneurs in our Silicon Fen. So, surely there is a whole category of ‘ones of watch’, in the form of a generation of ‘aspirers’, missing from the Cities Outlook index, who should take their rightful place alongside the ‘knowledge workers’ in driving the region’s success.
A recent visit to our school by entrepreneurs from the Californian Silicon Valley focussed on the impact of the Internet and green technologies. This was the first of many such events in our ‘Inspire Me’ programme. Of course we’re not alone in delivering thought provoking and visionary programmes like this and that’s part of the rich education landscape of Cambridge that we value and which contributes to the city’s success and to making it ‘one to watch’.