Cambridgeshire Live Lab celebrates cross-sector collaboration

Regional leaders from the worlds of business, politics and the third sector came together on 16 March to discover, dream and design a near future where Cambridgeshire is a centre for collaboration. Convened by Grant Thornton UK, the Cambridgeshire Live Lab was held in partnership with Cambridge Ahead and welcomed around 200 attendees.

Our highlight video


Regional representatives from all sectors gathered at Duxford’s Imperial War Museum to share their ideas and discuss plans to make the region an even greater place to live and to work.


Hazel Platt, Grant Thornton UK Cambridge Partner, began the Live Lab by explaining the motivations behind the event. She spoke about the need for organisations and businesses to take an active role in the communities where they work.


She encouraged guests to consider how they could help build and sustain an economy that benefits a wider area, and underlined the importance of using the event to facilitate fresh relationships and build new connections.


Discovering, dreaming and designing a more vibrant Cambridgeshire


Taking the call to action to heart, guests used the half-day event to “discover, dream and design” how Cambridgeshire’s existing strengths could be expanded upon. Early on, one guest brought up one of the region’s principal strengths: Cambridgeshire’s ability to support young organisations to develop and scale.


The Live Lab events follow the appreciative inquiry approach: encouraging ideas that contribute to strengths, rather than focusing on any challenges that may exist.


In groups of 10, guests were pushed to think outside of the box and present their ideas about how their region can continue to thrive. Ideas and actions ranged from innovative transport solutions to a dedicated international tourism centre and empowering local businesses to have a say in the school curriculum.



The principal themes discussed during the event were:



The region can only achieve its full potential if its organisations, businesses and institutions share resources, best practice and open dialogue. Several guests spoke of potential funding for invigorated working groups and collaborative centres that facilitate the sharing of ideas – for organisations at all stages of their growth journey. The aim is to stimulate both economic and social collaboration, leaving no area or community behind.


Decentralising Cambridge

Several guests spoke of the need to develop a ‘hub and spoke’ model, where new infrastructure allows people and businesses to operate outside of the city centre. Funding for new buildings, housing and transport routes would reduce congestion in the centre and encourage people to make better use of the whole region. In turn, this would bring employment opportunities to areas that have not been able to take full advantage of Cambridge’s recent growth.


One example was to have reduced commercial rents in some towns so that shops do not stand empty. One guest talked about how a closer partnership between local authorities’ BIDs and the LEPs could make this a reality.


A plan for housing to have co-funded equity schemes – funded through employers or through diverse pools of investment – so that people blocked from the housing ladder could gain access was highly supported by the room.


Cambridgeshire: going global

Attendees were confident that Cambridgeshire had space to grow when it came to taking the regional brand global. Many called for the region to pursue an open-door policy that would actively invite investment from across the world.


One group of guests described their vision for Cambridge to be City of Culture 2027, which would unite the region’s various champions and serve to promote the city and broader region to an international audience. Another advocated the creation of the Cambridge International Visitors’ Centre, a physical and virtual space that would work to encourage quality foreign direct investment was directed into the city and wider region.




Grant Thornton UK CEO, Sacha Romanovitch, closed the event by reminding guests that the potential to ensure the region’s continued success rests within people who share the same vision. She described the key to turning the Live Lab’s ideas into reality as ‘trust’ with guests holding themselves accountable.


“You have to share ideas, don’t hold back. You can leave this event and make everything you spoke about happen.” Sacha Romanovitch ended the Live Lab by inviting as many people as possible – whether in attendance or not – to get involved.


Cambridgeshire Inquirer thumbnail Download The Inquirer to find out more about how ideas are being turned into action in Cambridgeshire

More on Vibrant Economy


We are seeking to stimulate ideas and actions that can create a vibrant economy – one which realises the shared potential of companies, cities, people and communities across the UK

What is a Live Lab?

We’re hosting a series of Live Lab events across the UK in 2016/17 to help identify how we shape a vibrant economy in the UK.