The Value of Cooperation Capital to the OxCam Arc
As one of the most productive and economically active regions of the UK, the Oxford-Cambridgeshire Arc has the opportunity to become a world-leading innovation and enterprise zone, incubating businesses in the sectors of the future, including life sciences, ICT and high-tech (and green) manufacturing.
Generating £110bn for the British economy each year – with £2.9bn (3%) of that coming from life sciences companies in the Cambridge cluster alone – and with higher growth rates than anywhere outside London, the Arc clearly has huge economic potential.
That is a key reason why we at AstraZeneca decided to consolidate our R&D efforts in the UK alongside our global headquarters at the Cambridge Biomedical Campus. Our recently opened Discovery Centre (DISC) represents a £1 billion investment and will accommodate over 2,200 research scientists. Cambridge is undoubtably one of the most important bioscience locations in the world and we are proud of our legacy in the area – our footprint in the East of England delivers £1.23 bn in GVA per year to the regional economy, directly employs around 3,600 people and supports a further 11,850 jobs.
Across the whole UK – fired by our research in Cambridge – AstraZeneca provides £3.6bn in GVA per year, employs 7,897 colleagues (FTE), and supports a further 41,579 jobs across the economy.
Whilst the Arc benefits from many of the key factors that drive innovation – access to finance, world-class skills and talent, and renowned research institutes – the critical reason for its success is cooperation.
In Cambridge and across the wider Arc area we see real results derive from a shared outlook and ethos in seeking to solve problems. This ‘cooperation capital’ is a key ingredient for life sciences, as we have seen in recent times – with Government, industry, and academia working together to develop and distribute vaccines at unprecedented speed.
We believe that the best way to meet today’s science challenges is to work openly and collaboratively. Working in conjunction with colleagues based at laboratories in universities and research institutions, AstraZeneca aims to generate high impact science to support possible future advances in medical innovation. This includes the Functional Genomics Centre at the Milner Institute and the Antibody Alliance Laboratory, which are both collaborative partnerships with Cancer Research UK, the Medical Research Council Laboratory for Molecular Biology (MRC LMB), and the University of Cambridge.
But our investment in local and regional cooperation goes beyond scientific partnerships – we increasingly need to play a positive role in the community. Responding to the call from Government to help bolster the national COVID-19 testing effort, for example, bought together 400 scientists and volunteers from AstraZeneca, University of Cambridge, GSK and Charles River Laboratories to create the Cambridge Testing Centre (CTC). In just five weeks and an estimated 2,292 hours, a few empty rooms in the Anne MacLaren building, located on the Cambridge Biomedical Campus, became a high throughput testing facility. In just 12 months the centre delivered over 3.25 million samples and developed innovation that has now transferred to the new ‘megalab’ in Leamington Spa, which is led by one of AZ’s leading scientists from the centre.
In addition, AstraZeneca’s Early Talent Programme demonstrates our commitment to developing the next generation of scientists and researchers capable of transforming the lives of patients. Every year, we support more than 500 young scientists – including apprentices, undergraduate and graduate placements, PhDs and post-doctoral scientists. We have over 100 STEM volunteers in Cambridge, working with partners like the Cambridge Science Centre, Cambridge Academy for Science and Technology (CAST), and the Cambridge United Community Trust to inspire the next generation of local children and young adults into a science career. With CAST, for example, in 2021 we provided around 60 Year 10 students with presentations as part of the KS3 Medicine Maker course, including (virtual) feedback sessions with our scientists discussing the roles they play. We also now have over 250 apprentices in the UK in a wide range of business areas, including our science groups, IT, manufacturing and supply chain, clinical research, HR, finance and legal. These activities would not be possible without the cooperation of local schools, colleges and universities, as well as national cooperation with Government and education providers.
Being able to commercialise the wealth of incredible ideas harboured in Cambridge and elsewhere in the Arc is another vital component of a thriving ecosystem.
As part of our commitment to encourage innovation and entrepreneurship in life sciences, we support a number of initiatives that help biotech entrepreneurs advance their ideas. To date around 75 start-ups have benefitted from this knowledge and experience. Activities we support include programmes run by the Cambridge Judge Business School’s (CJBS) Entrepreneurship Centre, including Accelerate Cambridge and Ignite; Accelerate@Babraham; CMS Ventures, an early-stage collaboration and investment fund between AstraZeneca, China Medical Systems (CMS) and CJBS launched in 2020, as well as with Lucy Cavendish College, Cambridge.
We know these types of approaches are shared widely across the Arc, providing the region with rich levels of cooperation capital – that vital ingredient that is simultaneously unquantifiable but also intrinsic to our success. It stems from shared values in problem solving, seeking to improve the world for the next generation, and delivering change to peoples live today, including in the local communities where we operate.
Cambridge, as well as the wider Arc, is fortunate to have the advantages it does. But these advantages may be eroded by accelerating international competition for investment in the technologies of the future – including life sciences – unless further steps are taken to make the Arc a genuine global contender for innovation and enterprise. Supporting public and private organisations to cooperate together to accomplish shared objectives is a vital component to achieving this.