West Cambridge Innovation District will create new destination quarter and ‘put the science on show’
The city’s West Cambridge site will be transformed into a dynamic Innovation District, connecting world-class researchers with world-class businesses, creating thousands of jobs and providing a ‘sense of place’ and amenities for residents.
The scheme, approved by Cambridge City Council subject to a Section 106 agreement, signals a new approach to university-industry collaboration, with innovation ‘designed-in’ to encourage creativity to flourish. The restyled site will build on Cambridge’s innovation success and support the region’s economic recovery post-pandemic.
A wide range of jobs at various skill levels will be created as part of the site’s development, with an ambition to grow the number of employees at West Cambridge from the current 4,000 to 15,000 by 2041. The scheme will also boost sustainable travel at the site and in the west of the city, with a significant investment in pedestrian and cycle improvements.
New academic and commercial spaces will provide ‘side-by-side’ collaborative working – including Growth Hubs and an Innovation Space to support the development of start-ups – and at the heart of the District will be a series of shared amenity hubs that offer flexible space for teaching and study, as well as business meetings, social and networking events, talks and art exhibitions. The first of these hubs, is set to open later this year, and will include a café, restaurant and retail facilities that will welcome the local community and complement existing amenities such as the Sports Centre that already offers state-of-the-art leisure facilities for everyone living and working in the area.
Architecture and landscaping will help create a more open and welcoming environment for staff, students, and the wider community, putting the ‘science on show’ and encouraging social interaction. Pedestrianised plazas, central gardens, lakes and urban orchards will place healthy living and the natural world are at the heart of the development, contributing to the plan’s positive impact on the local ecology and quality of place.
University officers have worked closely with Council officers and with local residents to address concerns and to ensure the development will have a positive impact.
Full consideration of environmental impact is integral to the development and includes future plans for a solar farm to supply University buildings on the site with low-carbon electricity. The Innovation District will also be a testbed for developing innovative approaches to help the University achieve its ambition of becoming net zero by 2048.
The West Cambridge campus – where The Ray Dolby Centre will be the centrepiece of the new Cavendish Laboratory – is already home to world-leading research in technology and the physical sciences. The University sits at the heart of the so-called ‘Cambridge Cluster’, in which more than 5,300 knowledge-intensive firms employ more than 67,000 people and generate £18 billion in turnover. Cambridge has the highest number of patent applications per 100,000 residents in the UK.
Professor Andy Neely, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Enterprise and Business Relations at the University of Cambridge, said: “The West Cambridge Innovation District will be a vibrant new destination quarter within the city, connecting industry with academic expertise and creating a welcoming, people-focused environment, including leisure facilities, that will be enjoyed by the wider Cambridge community. The District will have a positive impact on biodiversity, and bring a wide range of new jobs at various skill levels, turning Cambridge brilliance into sustained economic growth.
“The development of West Cambridge will support the region’s economic recovery post-pandemic and nurture the entrepreneurial strengths of the Cambridge Cluster. Through architecture and landscaping, the restyled campus will foster connectivity and the kind of ‘serendipitous collisions’, or chance meetings, that spark new ideas and change the world.”