Monday, October 26, 2009

How to track new activities in the Technopole?

Viewpoint from Tim Minshall, Institute for Manufacturing and St John's Innovation Centre.

"So, which innovation activities should we get involved in?"

I asked a manager of one of the large firms that have moved to Cambridge as part of an 'open innovation' strategy whether he thought his organisation was sufficiently engaged with the numerous entrepreneurship and innovation activities within the cluster. He turned the question back to me by asking me which ones I thought they ought to be involved in. I started listing the obvious long-standing ones (such as Cambridge Network events, CfEL Enterprise Tuesday, etc) and some of the newer high profile ones (such as Silicon Valley Comes to Cambridge) but it occured to me that there are proably many more events and activities that I didn't know about. Contacting a few of my younger (i.e, those in their 20s and 30s) colleagues revealed, to my shame, a plethora of initiatives of which I was either completely unaware or only dimly aware. They highlighted activities including Cambridge Geek Day, Cambridge Tech Meetup, Super-Happy Dev Club, Women 4 Technology, BarCamp, Refresh Cambridge, Business Leaders' Network, beginspace, Cambridge Leaders' Academy, and more.

It was interesting to note who are running these events and activities. Some are 'old' organisations delivering new things, some are run by people who have been around Cambridge for a while and are now trying new things, and some are organised by people who are new to Cambridge and who see a gap in current provison of support and networking.

But, this left me with two simple questions: How can anyone in Cambridge keep track of all these new activities? How do you work out which ones are useful for what purpose? I am in the processs of updating the Cambridge Technopole website and report and so that it gives a more up-to-date reflection of what is going on within the cluster. Any comments or ideas on how to track what is going on would be most welcome ...


  1. Cambridge University Entrepreneurs ( also run a Business Plan competition which brings together some young researchers with good ideas from the University and a broad range of local angels and businesses interested in innovation.

  2. Ideal for a linkedin or facebook group that connects all the organisations together - is there a 'technopole' group?

  3. For the intentionally non-corporate end of things, there is now

    It is mildly interesting that there is a perceived need to list less "formal" groups - and to see how quickly some informal events have changed mode once they were better known.

  4. The proliferation of platforms is an issue in itself.

    For Cambridge groups alone I'm in 5 Ning, 5 Meetup, 6 LinkedIn and 2 Google groups. That even excludes a group that meets monthly but doesn't maintain a website.

  5. Picking up on Laura James' comment, I definitely believe that there is a need to separate the corporate level from the community level.

    On the corporate level, Cambridge Network does a great job. But speaking to many techies, SMEs, groups it is obvious that the technopole community perceives a lack of an online space where information can be easily shared and accessed.

    That is where comes in, aiming to fill that gap. Obviously it's success will rely entirely on the take-up by the community, as it is a user-driven platform.