Collaborating with the Global Community
Six part Q&A with Dr Jerry Wu, Head of Investment, TusPark UK
1. What is TusPark UK’s history and ambitions for the Oxford-Cambridge Arc?
TusPark is a science, technology and science/business park provider, which began as a spin-out from Tsinghua University in 1994. TusPark now manages and operates nearly 300 innovation spaces and science districts across 22 countries, creating and contributing to vibrant knowledge ecosystems all over the world.
TusPark UK has a presence in Cambridge and Newcastle with an investment of £220+m, a footprint which we formed four years ago, providing space for new innovation and a platform for start-ups, businesses and organisations in the UK. In Cambridge we’ve partnered with Trinity College Cambridge to deliver science and technology space to specification, while at the same time plugging occupiers and partners directly into our global services, providing hands-on support and education to founders and entrepreneurs within the Oxford-Cambridge Arc through incubation, investment, and cross-border networking.
We actively invest in the UK market directly, injecting critical capital into early-stage ventures in the region and building academic and commercial partnerships along the way.
2. What is the investment appeal of the Oxford-Cambridge Arc?
Within the region there are several matured ecosystems, including clusters in deeptech and life sciences where the UK is world-renowned. What’s special about the Arc, and its relationship with London; the “Golden Triangle”, is that these innovation districts cannot be duplicated elsewhere because they take decades to come together.
In the Arc there are world-leading centres of research, many spinouts, and an investment community to support these ventures. There are also massive commercial innovators, like GSK and AstraZeneca, that are big players in the life sciences space globally. Cambridge is the third largest life sciences cluster next to Boston and San Francisco, and there is an opportunity to elevate this further through ecosystem-building, infrastructure, and investment in high-growth companies locally.
3. What does TusPark UK bring to the Arc ecosystem?
Early-stage start-ups, companies pursuing proof of concept, established and scaling innovators, and even multinationals, can struggle to enter the Chinese market. This may be important for reach, or for production, manufacturing and distribution, and in many cases it is essential if new innovation is to be commercially viable on a global level. TusPark UK bridges the gap between the UK and China in terms of working culture and environment through education, making it easier to source trusted partners and the soft landing into China’s commercial landscape.
Both countries can see the benefits of promoting local business to a global level, and the need for a gateway into larger markets. This is a critical pathway that many enterprises operating in the Arc require. We’ve had strong support from both governments, and TusPark UK is an official partner of the Department for International Trade, organising training sessions to advance knowledge of what’s required to take a product international, and demystifying perceptions.
4. What can the Arc learn from the way science parks operate in China?
We cannot compare apples to oranges, in the same way that the Oxford-Cambridge Arc’s approach to clustering is entirely different to how it works in China. Of course, we can talk about innovation occurring across both countries, but the local environments are essentially very different, and it’s organic matter means we cannot lift and duplicate what works in one and graft it onto another.
This is because ecosystem-building is not just about injecting capital, or creating infrastructure. Ecosystems are all about the talent of people and their compatibility with the ecosystem culture. You can spend millions building industrial parks, but to attract talented people, there needs to be a local and organic approach to growth.
5. What are the opportunities and challenges that the Oxford-Cambridge Arc faces?
The Arc benefits from world-leading research and dynamic clustering and collaboration, but the clusters between Oxford and Cambridge have a different culture and their focuses are distinct. Even between Oxford and Cambridge, we see a step-change in attitudes and approaches, which makes it challenging to create greater synergies regionally.
Science and technology, and the innovation behind it, is a very competitive space globally. Where a company chooses to locate is a vital commercial decision. Local leaders need to have a better understanding about the unique landscape of the Arc and the connections between its communities; and who those enterprises want to be close with including collaborators, investors, and stakeholders in the science. Government involvement is also needed to build the infrastructure necessary to promote greater connectivity between people, because it’s not the capital which drives the growth but rather its people.
Similarly, while collaboration is good between key clusters, like London, Oxford and Cambridge, the central part of the Arc is not as activated. Foreign investors’ first steps are often into London’s innovation ecosystem, and there needs to be a compelling story as to why they should begin to make their next step into the Arc and not elsewhere internationally.
6. How do we attract overseas interest in the Arc, and not just in London?
Leaders, government organisations, overseas businesses, their strategists, and other decision-makers, need to understand why the Arc is special. DIT and other collaborative organisations have done a lot of hard work in bridging that knowledge gap to convey the benefits of the Golden Triangle, as have the Cambridge Network and Cambridge Ahead, but there needs to be a stronger welcome.
It’s foremost about being friendly. Cambridge is less conservative, and Chinese investors in particular have been given a warm welcome and an opportunity to form relationships more quickly. We can thicken these networks if local leaders are committed to Arc-wide innovation, and elevate the standing of the region in turn.