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Growth picks up in Cambridge as 'knowledge' businesses shrug off Brexit

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Cambridge-based businesses have suprised analysts by growing their turnover and employment at a faster pace following the Brexit vote, according to data from Cambridge University’s Centre for Business Research. Its survey shows that more than 24,000 Cambridge-based companies grew their global turnover by 14.4 per cent and employment by 9.2 per cent in the year to April 2017, over the previous year. Both figures marked a quickening in growth over the previous period. So-called knowledge-intensive sectors grew revenues by 16.2 per cent and employment by 5.1 per cent and now account for around a third of sales of Cambridge-based firms.

Construction, utilities, property, finance, transport and car sales saw lively sales growth ranging from 17-32 per cent. The data showed ICT companies have tended to cluster in the north of the city around the science parks, while life sciences companies, having also grown in the north, are now also expanding to the south and south east of the city. More businesses are spreading into East Cambs and to the north and north-west and more larger companies are growing in the area. Over 100 companies employ more than 250 people in the area and the largest companies also grew briskly at 26 per cent and 12 per cent. Small company turnover growth, at 27 per cent and employment, at 19 per cent, remained high.

Matthew Bullock, vice-chairman of Cambridge Ahead and master of St Edmund’s College, Cambridge, said: “The acceleration in growth – albeit now over a year ago – was a surprise in these numbers, given companies’ concerns about Brexit, albeit the devaluation of sterling following the Brexit vote may have been a factor in this acceleration. It is interesting to see that growth spread through all sectors and outwards across the city region. This data lends power to the argument that we need to ensure that our infrastructure can cope with the challenges that the scale and pattern of this growth brings with it.’

The current Cambridge Cluster Map, showing all Cambridge-based companies, can be viewed at www.camclustermap.com

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