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Cambridge Biomedical Campus brings £2.2bn boost to UK economy - and there is an opportunity to do more, says Dr Kristin-Anne Rutter





Cambridge Biomedical Campus had an £2.2billion economic impact on the UK economy last year, a new report marking its 60th anniversary has found.

Laying bare the phenomenal contribution of Cambridge’s largest employment site, it reveals that the campus supports more than 16,041 full-time equivalent jobs and a further 15,000 additional roles across the regional supply chain and local businesses.

The independent report, from the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr), comes at a time that the campus is working on expansion plans under its 30-year vision.

How the new Cambridge Cancer Hospital could look on Cambridge Biomedical Campus
How the new Cambridge Cancer Hospital could look on Cambridge Biomedical Campus

Home to Addenbrooke’s, the Rosie and Royal Papworth hospitals, the campus is due to welcome a new cancer research hospital and children’s hospital in the coming years. And its plethora of research institutions – including the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute and multiple University of Cambridge sites – has helped to draw major life science businesses including AstraZeneca and Abcam to the site. There are now more than 15 occupiers on the campus.

As a result, employment on the site is growing much faster than in the rest of the country, the report confirms – up 7.2 per cent between 2018 and 2021, compared to 0.44 per cent across the UK economy.

Dr Kristin-Anne Rutter, executive director at Cambridge Biomedical Campus. Picture: Keith Heppell
Dr Kristin-Anne Rutter, executive director at Cambridge Biomedical Campus. Picture: Keith Heppell

Dr Kristin-Anne Rutter, executive director at Cambridge Biomedical Campus, told the Cambridge Independent: “For me, the most surprising thing was the indirect contribution to our region and the broader UK and how extensive that was. It helps people to understand that, as a nation, investing in health and science is a real investment and not a cost or a drain on our economy.”

The report is, in fact, the first to calculate the economic benefits of the campus. The £2.2bn Gross Value Added (GVA) headline figure – described as aggregate economic footprint – includes a direct £1.09bn contribution from organisations on site, although AstraZeneca was considered out of scope as it had not moved its operations onto the campus within the period covered by the report. The rest of the figure comprises £495m GVA contribution from the supply chain and a further £624m in wider spending from employees on site.

The employee numbers stated have since been swelled by AstraZeneca moving into its spectacular Discovery Centre. The global biopharma company is expected to have 2,200 of its employees – 27.9 per cent of its total UK workforce – at the R&D site.

AstraZeneca’s Discovery Centre. Picture: Hufton+Crow.
AstraZeneca’s Discovery Centre. Picture: Hufton+Crow.

The report makes clear that the employment impact of the campus extends well beyond its borders, noting that ”for every 10 jobs directly generated by organisations on the CBC, a further 4.9 jobs are supported along their supply chains”.

And a further 4.8 jobs are supported for every 10 employed directly on the campus, or in its supply chains, if you take into account their spending, the report notes. Cebr calculates the campus supports the full-time equivalent of 31,643 jobs in total.

The local impact is enormous, with one in six jobs in Cambridge or South Cambridgeshire said to be directly or indirectly supported by the campus – the equivalent of 22,371 full-time roles.

The design for Cambridge Children’s Hospital. Image: Hawkins Brown and White Arkitekter
The design for Cambridge Children’s Hospital. Image: Hawkins Brown and White Arkitekter

Dr Rutter said: “The economic impact report for the first time demonstrates the importance of the Cambridge Biomedical Campus to the region, and to the thousands of people who work here and rely on the organisations, whether it’s as a patient or someone working on the site.

“The success we have on the site is not just limited to improved healthcare and treatments for patients – we generate jobs and income for businesses across Cambridge and the East of England. We do this through collaboration, with research, industry and the NHS working together to drive innovation which is then shared.”

Collaboration, of course, is seen as one of the primary benefits of the co-location of clinical care, research institutions and academia – and is what prompted AstraZeneca to build its R&D site and global HQ there in the first place.

Recently appointed one of the government’s Life Science Opportunity Zones, there are numerous examples of collaboration on the campus, including the joint Cancer Research UK-AstraZeneca Functional Genomics Centre, helping to generate new cancer therapies, or the Blue Skies Programme through which AstraZeneca and the MRC LMB work together.

The MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology. Picture: Keith Heppell
The MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology. Picture: Keith Heppell

AstraZeneca has also sited its nuclear magnetic resonance laboratory within the MRC LMB, while The Milner Therapeutics Consortium brings together three academic centres and pharmaceutical companies. The new Heart and Lung Research Institute is a partnership between the Royal Papworth and the University of Cambridge.

“The clustering of firms and collaboration between organisations will continue to grow in the future,” the report confidently predicts.

“Life sciences are a very strong opportunity for the Cambridge region,” noted Dr Rutter. “There is a huge collaboration here between the Biomedical Campus with Wellcome, on our borders, and with Babraham and West Cambridge and so on. It is genuinely an ecosystem that works well together.”

Part of driving that success, however, will involve getting approval to expand the site.

As the Cambridge Independent reported last year, the campus partners have been engaging the owners of land surrounding the site – Jesus College, St John’s College, Cambridgeshire County Council and a private family trust – to explain what they believe is needed under a new 30-year vision.

Jan Löwe, LMB director, and Laurel Powers-Freeling, chair of Cambridge University Health Partners, overlooking Cambridge Biomedical Campus. Picture: Keith Heppell
Jan Löwe, LMB director, and Laurel Powers-Freeling, chair of Cambridge University Health Partners, overlooking Cambridge Biomedical Campus. Picture: Keith Heppell

That includes developing the campus into a fully integrated community, with homes and leisure facilities alongside its biomedical buildings and hospitals.

“There is an opportunity for all the institutions here to do more,” said Dr Rutter. “The AstraZeneca-Cancer Research UK Functional Genomics Lab is trying to understand, now that we can read the genome, what it can actually do? That is focused on cancer, but can it extend into immunology?

“We have to be very careful as custodians of it, but we are quite unique in having some room to expand if you compare it to, for example, central London, or other conurbations across the UK or actually the world.

“We can be attractive on that global stage, and this report shows that has wide-reaching benefits.

“What isn’t quantified is the economic impact of having healthier populations, able to participate. That may dwarf the numbers you see. There’s a huge burden of ill health that impact people’s ability to engage in education or the workforce.”

A major new building coming to Cambridge Biomedical Campus
A major new building coming to Cambridge Biomedical Campus

Dr Rutter said work is ongoing to understand the kind of facilities best suited to the site and its expertise, and the vision will feed into the ongoing Local Plan process.

“I want to make sure that any development here on the campus does continue to foster this huge ecosystem of collaboration. There are absolutely things that don’t belong here – even within life sciences,” noted Dr Rutter.

“The campus has grown very successfully but without a sense of whole, so we want to make sure it continues to benefit the existing campus and the resident groups that sit alongside us.”

Important in that process, of course, will be improving its sustainability, aided by the arrival of a Cambridge South railway station.

A computer generated image of the proposed Cambridge South Railway Station. Image: Network Rail
A computer generated image of the proposed Cambridge South Railway Station. Image: Network Rail

For now, the campus plans to celebrate the success it has had since the site was first occupied with a series of events telling stories of the globally-significant research there.

Dr Rutter said: “The report is an important milestone, so too is our 60th anniversary, and throughout September we’ll be highlighting some of the amazing developments and ideas which have happened since Addenbrooke’s Hospital and the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology arrived on the Hills Road site.”

From a menopause café to a virtual tour, a range or events are planned.

Visit cambridge-biomedical.com or keep an eye on @CamBioCampus on Twitter for more on the events.

In numbers

  • £2.2bn - Gross Value Added (GVA) by campus in 2020-21, including £1.09bn directly
  • £1.9bn - operating income in year to April 2021
  • 36.2% growth in contribution to the UK economy since 2018
  • £4.1bn - operating income and funding supported by campus, including in wider economy
  • £11.40 supported in wider economy for every £10 of operating income and funding directly generated by campus organisations
  • 16,041 - full-time equivalent jobs on site, growing to 20,000-plus by end of 2023
  • 15,602 - additional full-time equivalent roles supported in associated industries and local spending in wider Cambridgeshire economy
  • 7.2% growth in employment - compared to 0.44% across UK - from 2018-2021
  • £721m is spent by employees in the regional economy
  • 2.7 jobs supported in Cambridge or South Cambridgeshire for every 10 jobs on the campus
  • 1 in 6 jobs in Cambridge or South Cambridgeshire supported directly or indirectly by the campus
  • £291m tax revenue paid in 2021
  • £405m spent by campus employees in the wider economy of neighbouring local authority areas each year
  • £158m of operating income generated along supply chains within the East of England
  • £60,904 - average annual compensation per full-time worker on the campus, up from from £54,375
  • £67,665 - productivity per worker for 2020-21, up 27 per cent on the £53,275 in 2018-19, based on GVA per full-time employee

Source: Cebr report

Four case studies

Cambridge Biomedical Campus’ impact should not just be measured in numbers, of course. Its biggest impact is on patient lives, as these examples show.

Cytosponge: A ‘sponge on a string’ test to detect oesophageal cancer

The Cytosponge device used to help detect Barrett’s oesophagus
The Cytosponge device used to help detect Barrett’s oesophagus

Each year, about 9,100 people in the UK are diagnosed with oesophageal cancer – and many do not realise there is a problem until they start to have trouble swallowing. The symptoms often are not recognisable until later stages of the disease.

However, there is an opportunity to detect the disease earlier as some people develop Barrett’s oesophagus prior to developing cancer. This condition is much more common, and only becomes cancer in a small proportion of cases, but gives doctors a chance to spot a problem and intervene early. The typical test, however – endoscopy – is invasive and expensive. Now the Cytosponge-TFF3 test has been developed. A ‘sponge on a string’ device coupled with a laboratory test called TFF3, it was developed by scientists funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC) and Cancer Research UK, and offers a simple, quick and affordable test for Barrett’s oesophagus that can be carried out in a GP surgery.

Ethanol breath biopsy clinical trial for early lung cancer detection

Wendy Tait, right, takes part in the EVOLUTION lung cancer trial using Owlstone Medical technology, at the Royal Papworth Hospital. Picture: Royal Papworth
Wendy Tait, right, takes part in the EVOLUTION lung cancer trial using Owlstone Medical technology, at the Royal Papworth Hospital. Picture: Royal Papworth

As we reported, a new clinical trial has launched at Royal Papworth Hospital using ethanol detected in exhaled breath as a potential tool to diagnose lung cancer earlier. The EVOLUTION trial is recruiting patients who have lung cancer and healthy volunteers who do not. It employs technology developed by Cambridge company Owlstone Medical, which has previously collaborated with the hospital.

Changing the future of ovarian cancer

Prof James Brenton
Prof James Brenton

Each year, about 7,500 women in the UK are diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and around 5,000 will have the most aggressive form of the disease. The cure rate for women with ovarian cancer is very low, despite new medicines coming into the clinic. Only 43% of women in England survive five years beyond their ovarian cancer diagnosis, compared with more than 80% of people for more common cancers, such as breast (85 per cent) and prostate (87 per cent). This is because the disease is often diagnosed late, treatment options are limited, and many women develop resistance to current therapies. Research by Professors James Brenton and Evis Sala, at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Centre, aims to address this.

Artificial pancreas

A patient using the artificial pancreas. Picture University of Cambridge
A patient using the artificial pancreas. Picture University of Cambridge

An artificial pancreas developed by Cambridge researchers is helping protect very young children with type 1 diabetes at a particularly vulnerable time of their lives.



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