Punting on the river

Communication and collaboration in the Fens

A region home to thousands of technology companies, with a multi-billion-pound annual turnover and residents ranging from the start-up powering Amazon’s Alexa, to giants like Apple.

Silicon Valley? Nope, Silicon Fen.

Cambridge has long been recognised globally as a centre for academic excellence, yet it also has a history as a hub for technology and innovation. One of the first general-purpose electronic computers was created in Cambridge University’s Computer Laboratory in 1949, and a decade later the first technology transfer company, Cambridge Consultants, was founded here.

Global software and electronics companies soon began moving in, including Microsoft, Huawei, Samsung, AstraZeneca and ARM. It is also home to thriving start-ups, such as Evi, an AI company which was acquired by Amazon in 2012, and went on to become the foundation for Amazon Echo. Today the city plays host to specialists in gaming, communications, biotechnology, IoT, cyber security and AI – to name but a few. These businesses contribute to this thriving sector, drawn by its environment of creativity and innovation, as well as its proximity to Cambridge Uni post-grad talent.

Silicon Valley may be better known on the global stage, but Silicon Fen is arguably more established, and is fast catching up. Spurring on this growth is the tech cluster’s environment of open communication, shared knowledge and collective learning; this stands in stark contrast to the closed, secretive nature of many Silicon Valley residents.

Today, for the 9th consecutive year, the CW International Conference (CWIC) returns to Cambridge, with attendees debating controversial industry issues, sharing expertise and challenges, and making new connections. The theme this year is ‘connecting generations’, which further emphasises the need for cooperation, collaboration and communication across the board.

CW is a not-for-profit community of almost 400 companies from across the globe, no doubt adding to the huge and diverse community of innovators Silicon Fen has opened its doors to for CWIC today. From C-suite leaders and entrepreneurs to start-ups and engineers; attendees are all keen to discuss and share ideas on issues including 5G, smart cities and immersive technologies.

The event’s Innovation Programme spreads this sentiment further, with companies this year encouraged to focus on solving the challenges of the NHS and council authorities, with the aim of reducing costs for public bodies, improving services and bettering the lives of individuals and communities. Again, what a contrast to Silicon Valley, whose high concentration of wealth and bussing in and out of its workers arguably stokes issues of social division and segregation.

Communication and the sharing of knowledge and goals should not stop when CWIC closes for another year. Developments across the tech industry continue apace, and a company’s ability to share its values and learning, as well as taking advice from others, is key to success. Silicon Fen, with its proximity to and links with academic and research institutes and its open, connected nature (especially when compared to its US cousin!) provides a great platform for companies wanting to get their voices heard.

Recognising this, we opened a second office in Cambridge last year, in order to support the flourishing Silicon Fen tech scene, and provide companies in the area with a point of access to international markets, through our global partner network. Businesses require effective and ongoing communication with their customers, prospects, competitors and adjacent industries. Whilst CWIC and similar events offer occasions for this throughout the year, to be truly effective, communication must be focussed and ongoing.

Silicon Fen and CWIC epitomise the importance of communication and collaboration between industry players. By extending these lines of communication and partnering with a comms agency that offers local support and global knowledge, businesses can ensure that their hard work and progression are voiced and heard by those that matter.

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