19 pictures as Cambridge Network celebrates 21st anniversary in style
New-look University Arms is venue
The newly-reopened University Arms was the setting for Cambridge Network’s 21st anniversary celebration on Monday (September 3).
The city’s premier networking organisation was started in 1997 by the then Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, Alec Broers – now Lord Broers – with businessmen and entrepreneurs Hermann Hauser, David Cleevely, Nigel Brown, Fred Hallsworth and Anthony Ross, then head of 3i Cambridge.
Dr Hauser and Lord Broers arrived together at the Ballroom, joining guests who were intrigued to see the inside of thew-look hotel.
Of Cambridge Network’s origins, Dr Hauser said: “Over dinner Lord Broers and I lamented the fact that Cambridge didn’t have a networking organisation.”
Fast forward 21 years and, with 1,500 member companies and 20,000 followers, it’s safe to say it does now. Members range from AstraZeneca to CMR Surgical to Ziconix.
Dr Cleevely said: “When Hermann Hauser, Lord Broers and I first discussed the idea of a networking organisation for Cambridge none of us had any idea how successful or long lived it would turn out to be.
“Before Cambridge Network, rivalry and tribalism were the order of the day. Now Cambridge leads the UK in showing how a city can use collaboration and networking to deliver sustained growth and a hugely successful economy, due in no small part to the connectivity and support which Cambridge Network has provided for 21 years now.”
With its website, member directory and a programme of events, it’s now embedded in Cambridge’s DNA.
CEO Claire Ruskin said: “Ideas were being shared in pubs and cafes in the city, but there was no structure to grow that experience, where people could learn from each other intentionally and perhaps come up with new businesses. So the Network was established to connect people both physically, through regular face-to-face meetings, and virtually, through a comprehensive online member directory and news system.
“And what we’ve found as the Network has matured is that meetings result in hugely valuable cross-fertilisation of ideas and best practice. Serendipitous conversations prompt unexpected partnerships and deliberately unpredictable outcomes,” she says.
In the late 1990s the idea of a hub in the form of a website – especially one that allowed members to interact and add their own material – was innovative, but the Cambridge business community embraced it. The first Network site was ground-breaking, a flagship model for networking organisations across Europe, followed more recently by those in Munich and in Leuven, Belgium.
The site has gone through several iterations, with its core still the member directory; listings of events run by the Network and members, and a news service which allows both to post press releases and company information. Today the site includes full details of the immense variety of courses and peer learning groups run by the Network’s training division, the Learning Collaboration, and also boasts what is known as the best jobs board in the region – the Recruitment Gateway.
These services came about in response to the needs of Network members. Other activities have evolved and changed but the Network’s purpose has not changed: to sustain and grow the vibrant, multi-sector cluster of Cambridge and to bring its diverse, highly-skilled members together to meet and share ideas, and to collaborate for greater success.
“We are always keen to hear from members who have new ideas for activities we can develop, like our more recent School for Scale-Ups which is growing fast,” says Claire.
“We sustain ourselves by being excellent in delivering services that members want,”
So congratulations for getting the ball rolling – and running with it so far and for so long. One of the reasons Cambridge is an exceptional business brand is down to the way people come together and find common ground to talk. Long may this grand tradition continue.
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More by this authorMike Scialom
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