2 November, 2011 - 12:16 By Tony Quested

What if the Cambridge brains stop throbbing?

Cambridge technology entrepreneurs are being treated like people who agree to donate their bodies to medical research only to have the offers taken up BEFORE they die.

Somewhere on a shelf at the Technology Strategy Board, or perhaps No.10, stand a row of pickle jars containing throbbing brains donated pre-mortem by Cambridge’s brightest innovators.

While the brains continue to pulsate, innovation is kept alive in the whole of the UK. But if the pulse strength falls below a certain level, whole communities north of the Trent collapse in heaps – Lancashire, Yorkshire and the North East are particularly vulnerable.

What will happen to the nation if the Cambridge brains fade and die is too dire a scenario for the Government to contemplate. So they keep topping up the brine around the brains – a champagne reception at Downing Street here, a Ministerial visit there. Flatter that ego; tickle that tummy.

Britain needs a nanotech cluster, a photonics centre, a plastic electronics hub, centres of excellence in wireless, High Value Manufacturing, BioMedtech and CleanTech. Take a bow Wearside, Humberside, the Ribble Valley – an oil rig off Wick – anywhere other than Cambridge.

Recent funding announcements have read like an RAC roadmap of northern Britain; are the decisions being taken by orienteers?

We’ve been having office sweepstakes on which obscure outposts will get the nod in future rounds: Blubberhouses (North Yorkshire), Mavis Enderby (Lincolnshire Wolds), Cocklick End (Lancashire), Cockup Bottom (honestly its in Cumbria – near Little Cockup – and may well be in need of some stimulation to be fair).

Cambridge provided three of the four keynote speakers at Innovate 11 in London earlier this month – Hermann Hauser, Pilgrim Beart and Alex van Someren. (“Take their brains,” we imagine a government Gollum slavering – No.10’s Smeagol for SMEs.)

Downing Street has become expert at leveraging the Cambridge Cluster’s innovation to boost exports and Britain’s international standing, sucking Cambridge intellects dry for the benefit of everywhere but Cambridge – and then refusing to fund the furtherance of that world-leading intellectual capital.

They ought to take that cute little paradigm to Silicon Valley and tell them that forthwith all future resources must be diverted to Alaska.

What we are seeing is the Coalition’s version of positive discrimination. They don’t understand how clusters evolve and still believe they can synthetically replicate elements of them by scattering cash like myopic farmers sowing seed into a Force 10.

We’ve said before and we say again: You feed the strong and incentivise them to feed the weak. The brilliance of Cambridge University and the cluster that has sprung from this wellhead cannot artificially be reproduced in Rotherham.

In case you missed Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg’s rationale for the funding discrimination against Cambridge and other areas of the South East deemed too wealthy for our own good – like London – it’s worth a recap.

He said: “People in the rest of Britain have been let down for far too long by governments in thrall to one Square Mile of it.”

The City of London has been duly warned. And of course he’s singing from the same hymn sheet as his Tory colleagues isn’t he? Well, actually, no.

Here’s an extract from Chancellor George Osborne’s Mansion House Speech this summer: “Look around the City today and activity is growing. The investment banks are hiring again – and they’re hiring here in London.

“There are some 25,000 more jobs in the Square Mile than a year ago. I’ve seen it – I’ve been at the openings of new headquarters and new buildings. Funds are out there investing. Law firms, accountants and the insurers are busy.

“And this year, for all the doomsayers who warn of decline, London has topped the global league table of financial centres. We’re officially the number one place to do business – so instead of talking ourselves down, let’s agree to go around the world and say so. Of course, we’ve got to stay in pole position.”

Sound a tad in thrall to the Square Mile there Georgie boy. So how exactly does London stay in pole? By starving it of funding as the Deputy Prime Minister suggests?

Perhaps Whitehall could fabricate a biological warfare scare in the South East and force mass migration to somewhere further and fashionably north – Cockup Bottom, perhaps. Such a move would also provide a living, breathing byword for current economic policy.

Newsletter Subscription

Stay informed of the latest news and features