Distinctive Group

A progressive new partnership between the innovation clusters in Cambridge and Manchester aims to boost investment in both cities and across the UK.

The link-up will draw on the strengths of both cities to help them accelerate the scale-up of businesses and create new local jobs in sectors critical to the UK’s future prosperity.

The strategic partnership – between Innovate Cambridge and ID Manchester – builds on existing links between the cities’ science and tech hotspots.

The collaboration connects Manchester’s rapidly growing tech scene, the UK’s largest outside London and the South East (Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, 2022) to Cambridge’s established ecosystem, which has been named the most intensive science and technological cluster in the world for a second year running by the Global Innovation Index.

Despite the geographical distance between them, the cities already have a close relationship in this space. Major science and tech firms co-locate in both city regions including life sciences giant AstraZeneca, chip designer Arm and   global streaming platform Roku.

The University of Cambridge and The University of Manchester have strong ties, including collaborating on major national research and development initiatives such as the Henry Royce Institute and the Productivity Institute. There are also strong ties between the investment communities, through Cambridge Angels and Manchester Angels.

The alliance is backed by the mayors of Greater Manchester and Cambridgeshire & Peterborough, Andy Burnham and Nik Johnson, as well as Manchester City Council leader Bev Craig and Cambridge City Council leader Mike Davey.

The proposals support the Government’s ambitions for the UK to become a science and tech superpower, with an overarching vision to ensure benefits are felt by local communities in both regions.

The first step includes setting up physical hubs in the cities to strengthen and accelerate collaboration between researchers and entrepreneurs and act as a gateway to both ecosystems.

The partnership will also work with the Department for Business and Trade, the government’s Office for Investment and local partners to identify options for attracting joint inward investment and co-location opportunities.

Underpinning the partnership is a shared commitment from both cities to an inclusive innovation-led growth agenda, leveraging business and political leadership, and accelerating growth in critical sectors like AI, digital tech, advanced materials, and health and biotech.

The partnership aims to accelerate economic growth locally, regionally and nationally, and translate world-leading research into new jobs.

In Cambridge, Manchester will find a hotbed of innovation and commercialisation, with 23 billion-dollar unicorn companies born in the city. The University of Cambridge is also the number one university in the world for producing successful tech founders, ahead of the likes of Harvard and MIT.

In Manchester, Cambridge will benefit from the dynamism of Manchester’s growing innovation ecosystem. Last year the city was recognised as the UK’s leading regional tech city (CBRE, 2022) and it’s also home to the fastest-growing university spin-out population in the UK (Beauhurst, 2023). The University of Manchester was recently named number 1 both in the UK and Europe, and second in the world for social and environmental impact (Times Higher Education Impact Rating, 2023). It’s also the most popular university in the UK for undergraduate applications (UCAS 2021 cycle), and the most targeted university by the UK’s leading employers (The Graduate Market, 2023).

Mike Davey, Cambridge City Council leader said, “This partnership will lead to new ideas, jobs, and enable ground-breaking discoveries to be scaled-up in the North West. Here in Cambridge, we are excited to put inclusive innovation at the heart of what we are trying to achieve locally and for the UK economy.”

Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, added, “Greater Manchester and Cambridge are recognised globally as hubs for innovation. The partnership between ID Manchester and Innovate Cambridge can help us strengthen ties between our places, linking the pioneering research and outstanding businesses present in each.

“Our ambition is for Greater Manchester to be a high-growth, high-wage economy, where the opportunities created by innovation are accessible to all. By focusing on investment and business growth, this partnership supports that ambition.”

For more information and partnership enquiries, please contact tabitha@innovatecambridge.com.

About Innovate Cambridge

Innovate Cambridge, launched in 2022 by founding partners Cambridge Enterprise, Cambridge Innovation Capital and the University of Cambridge, is dedicated to fostering innovation and driving economic growth in the Greater Cambridgeshire region.

About ID Manchester

Based in the heart of the city of Manchester and set over 4m sq ft, ID Manchester is a joint venture between The University of Manchester and Bruntwood SciTech.

Case Study: AstraZeneca

AstraZeneca is the UK’s largest life sciences company, with over 9,000 employees across the country – primarily based at one of its global R&D centres in Cambridge and the UK’s largest medicines development and manufacturing site in Macclesfield, 16 miles south of Manchester. Given its footprint across Cambridge and Macclesfield, AstraZeneca is therefore uniquely placed to leverage the complementary assets of both to enhance scientific progress and deliver life-saving medicines to patients in the UK and around the world. The company has hundreds of partnerships around the UK with universities, other academic institutions and research organisations, with over 130 in Cambridge alone and over 40 in the North West.

The proximity of The University of Manchester to AstraZeneca’s Macclesfield Campus provides a strong foundation for scientific collaboration, excellence in education and developing pathways to new and innovative technologies. Through the Manchester Cancer Research Centre (MCRC) – a collaboration between the University, the Christie NHS Foundation Trust, Cancer Research UK and the Paterson Institute for Cancer Research – AstraZeneca scientists in Cambridge support several research strands looking at how cancer develops and apply that research to new diagnostic tests, treatments and ways of predicting and preventing cancer.

Since 2015, AstraZeneca has also partnered with Manchester Metropolitan University to support students seeking degree apprenticeships in disciplines such as chemical sciences – AstraZeneca has over 300 apprentices in the UK, most of whom are based in Macclesfield and Cambridge.