50 fascinating facts about Cambridge technology

Posted 3 Jun 2013 by Sue Keogh in General news

You might know a thing or two about the incredible discoveries, inventions and technological advancements that have come out of the Cambridge tech cluster. But did you know the following facts?

1. The Cambridge Scientific Instrument Company, ‘the Scientific’, was founded by Charles Darwin’s son Horace in 1881.

2. The Scientific manufactured the first scanning electron microscope, the Stereoscan, in 1964. Later they made the Geoscan which was used to examine the first moon rocks.

3. William Pye who earlier worked at the Cavendish and the Scientific founded the WG Pye Instrument Company in 1896. Over the following six decades the company designed, manufactured and sold radios for domestic use, two-way radio equipment, television sets, television broadcast cameras and studio equipment before being acquired by Philips.

4. Aero Research, founded by Norman de Bruyne in 1934, pioneered Aerolite adhesives which enabled bonded wooden aircraft structures including the 2nd World War de Havilland Mosquito and later wood to metal structures as used on the de Havilland Comet.

5. Aero Research also developed the famous Araldite epoxy resin.

6. Marshall of Cambridge was founded by David Marshall in 1909, originally as a chauffeur-driven car company.

7. David Marshall’s son, Arthur, developed the Ab Initio Flying Instructors scheme which was adopted by the RAF in 1941.

8. Marshall trained over 20,000 pilots in the Second World War.

9. In 1953, Marshall became the first and only airport to build a concrete runway without government funding. It was narrow and became known as the Cambridge Bootlace before being extended and widened in 1957.

10. Marshall helped Cambridge scientist Tom Bacon design and produce one of the world’s first fuel cells which was demonstrated in 1959.

11. Pratt & Whitney based the fuel cells that provided electricity and drinking water for the Apollo spacecraft on Bacon’s design and the Space Shuttle carried the next generation of the same technology.

12. Marshall designed the famous droop nose and retracting visor for Concorde which enabled the first test flight out of Toulouse on 2nd March 1969.

13. Metals Research was founded by David and Michael Cole in 1957 to capitalize on the single metal crystal work Michael had been doing in the Cavendish laboratory. It later merged with the Scientific under the name the Cambridge Instrument Company which in the 1970s employed 1,800 people.

14. Torvac was founded by Malcolm Boston and Christopher Saunders in 1959, focusing on electron beam welding equipment and vacuum furnaces principally for the aerospace industry.

15. In 1958 Tim Eiloart, who later co-founded Cambridge Consultants, nearly died in an attempt to cross the Atlantic via hot air balloon.

16. The founding of Cambridge Consultants Ltd (CCL) by Tim Eiloart and David Southward in November 1960 is widely believed to be the catalyst behind the development of the Cambridge Phenomenon.

17. Clive Sinclair met Tim Eiloart in 1961 and set up his first company Sinclair Radionics

18. In 1964 Sinclair designed the Micro 6, claimed to be the world’s smallest radio.
. His first product was a miniature amplifier.

19. CAD Centre, founded in 1967, ultimately became AVEVA which today is LSE listed and one of Cambridge’s most lucrative companies.

20. The Mott Report, published in 1969, recommended expanding ‘science-based industry’ in Cambridge.

21. Among other suggestions the Mott Report put forward the idea of establishing a science park.

22. Trinity College got behind this idea and turned some land they owned on Milton Road into what is now Cambridge Science Park – the first such park in the UK. The first tenant was Laser-Scan in 1973.

23. Sinclair Radionics launched the UK’s first electronic pocket calculator in 1972. By 1974 they were producing more than 100,000 calculators a month.

24. Gordon Edge joined CCL in 1963 and left to set up PA’s Technology Centre in the early 1970s. One of their first products was the vandal-resistant coin operated telephone designed for Plessey which enabled them to win a lucrative contract with British Telecom. The product is still in use around the world.

25. An early spin-out from CCL was Domino Printing Sciences which started a mini-cluster of inkjet printing companies in the Cambridge area. In 2009, more than half the world market in ink-jet printing was controlled by Cambridge based companies.

26. The Argentine conflict in 1982 saw Marshall convert Hercules aircraft to flight refuellers to enable aircraft to make the round trip from the Ascension Islands to the Falklands and back. The first flight trials took place less than two weeks after Sir Arthur Marshall received the call and the aircraft entered service 19 days after the original request

27. Acorn Computers was set up by Hermann Hauser and Chris Curry (a former employee of Clive Sinclair) in 1979 to develop microcomputers aimed at hobbyists. The first product, Acorn System 1, was shortly followed by the Acorn Atom.

28. Clive Sinclair set up Science of Cambridge in 1979. The first product was the Sinclair ZX 80. This began the ‘micro wars’ between Acorn and Sinclair which was to be a feature of the 1980s.

29. Acorn found fame and fortune with the BBC Micro and became a nursery for a number of people who would later find success in companies like ARM.

30. Sinclair’s leading product was the ZX Spectrum which ultimately sold in the millions before the company’s assets were acquired by Alan Sugars’ Amstrad.

31. Torch computers, set up in 1982, produced a business version of the BBC Micro. Several Torch employees went on to bigger things. Ray Anderson to IXI and then AIM-listed Bango; Peter Harris and Angus Thirlwell to what today is Hotel Chocolat; while Charles Dunstone went on to found Carphone Warehouse.

32. The 1970s saw the start of another mini-cluster, audio equipment. Companies included Cambridge Audio, A&R Cambridge, Lecson Audio, Mission, Quad, and Meridian.

33. SQW published the first Cambridge Phenomenon Report in 1985 which showed that the cluster had grown to more than 420 companies by that time.

34. Gordon Edge left PA Technology in 1986 to set up Scientific Generics (now Sagentia), the third technology consulting firm in the Cambridge area.

35. PA Technology lost another group of people in 1988 when Gerald Avison set up The Technology Partnership (TTP). CCL, PA Technology, Sagentia, and TTP remain the four largest tech consultancies in the Cambridge area although today there are a dozen in total.

36. The Biotech sector began in the 1980s.

37. Humira developed by CAT is a blockbuster drug with sales topping $6.5Bn in 2010 (marketed by Abbott Laboratories)36. The Biotech sector began in the 1980s.

38. 1988 saw the opening of St. John’s Innovation Centre which was modeled on a facility in Salt Lake City and was the first of its type in the UK.

39. The 1990s saw the launch of a number of Cambridge’s billion dollar companies: Abcam (online antibody sales), ARM, Autonomy, Cambridge Silicon Radio (CSR – Bluetooth technology), Cambridge Antibody Technology (CAT – humanised antibodies), Ionica (wireless telephony), Solexa (gene sequencing) and Virata (DSL – broadband technology).

40. Peter Dawe launched Pipex in 1990, the UK’s first Internet Service Provider.

41. The world’s first webcam was pointed at the Trojan Room coffee pot in the Cambridge University Computer Science Department.

42. Two technology networking organizations, ERBI (Eastern Region Biotechnology Initiative) and the Cambridge Network, were launched in 1997 and 1998 respectively. Since then more than 50 additional networking organizations have been started.

43. The three leading networking organizations are all run by women.

44. The Judge Institute of Management Studies (now the Cambridge Judge Business School) was opened by the Queen in 1996.

45. Plastic Logic was founded in 2000 marking the start of a revolution in plastic semiconductors. In January 2011 RUSNANO, the Russian organization announced a $700m investment in the company and the intention to build a new factory outside Moscow to manufacture e-readers for the education market.

46. Cambridge is the home of the Laboratory of Molecular Biology which has seen multiple Nobel Prize winners: Cancer Research UK, Papworth Hospital, and the new biomedical campus.

47. Cambridge biotech companies have attracted larger companies and big pharmaceuticals to the region, bringing investment and additional skills, especially in management, regulatory compliance and marketing. Among the companies that have moved into Cambridge are AstraZeneca, GSK and Takeda, all through acquisitions of local companies. AstraZeneca acquired Cambridge Antibody Technology, GSK acquired Domantis, and Takeda acquired Paradigm Therapeutics. All three kept and expanded the Cambridge operations. Others, such as Acambis, were eventually absorbed by the parent companies after acquisition. Drug delivery company Napp set up its UK headquarters on the Science Park in 1983, and has brought many people to work in Cambridge, some of whom have gone on to set up companies

48. The Wellcome Trust Research Centre was the home for completion of the first sequencing of the human genome

49. Cambridge is the home to two of the UK’s most successful games software companies: Frontier Games and Jagex Games (developer of Runescape, the leading MMORPG game).

50. There are 19 science, research, business parks, and incubators in the Cambridge area.