The Duke Visits leaders in science and enterprise in Cambridge

David_CleevelyCambridge is the home of world leading science and technology. It has the most Nobel prizes, the biggest selling block buster drug and revenues from integrated circuits that dwarf Intel. Cambridge tech has more exports, revenue and stock market value than BT or Rolls Royce.

As you can read elsewhere on this site, The Duke of York is a great supporter of entrepreneurship and all things tech. His visit to Cambridge – the second in 12 months – encompassed the University of Cambridge, the Cambridge Science Centre and Raspberry Pi. The discussions covered materials science (see separate article), the results of research into encouraging new companies, getting 5-15 year olds engaged in STEM subjects and the technology behind a teddy bear jumping from a balloon 30m further above the earth than Felix Baumgartner.

The visit coincided with Cambridge Judge Business School marking the 10th anniversary of its Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning (CfEL), which has worked with 16,000 aspiring entrepreneurs and helped get 200 start-up businesses find their feet. CfEL is trying to find out how best to help the enterprises that have been dubbed the “vital 6 per cent” – the rapidly expanding small businesses that generate more than half of all new jobs in the UK.

His Royal Highness has asked CfEL to carry out research into the “triggers and motivations that create entrepreneurs”. Sitting around the table over lunch were some of the leading academics and entrepreneurs in Cambridge, and not surprisingly there was a lively debate about what drove entrepreneurship and how best to foster it. As everyone encounters The Duke knows, when it comes to this kind of discussion he is in his element: the conversation quickly becomes relaxed with everyone focused on the task in hand. Not lacking in ambition His Royal Highness challenged the group to come up with practical ways the UK could more than double the number of entrepreneurs: we will see the results of this early next year.

Having unveiled the CfEL’s unveiling a specially commissioned engraved glass panel entitled The Spirit of Enterprise, the next stop was the Cambridge Science Centre, an educational charity which hosts hands-on exhibitions, workshops, shows and outreach to schools to get the public excited about science and technology. Located in Jesus Lane in the centre of Cambridge, this new venture, funded by a group of tech entrepreneurs and supported by Jesus College and the University, aims to encourage children to follow STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) by showing just how fascinating and fun they can be. The enthusiasm was palpable with dozens of children trying out the gadgets. The Duke was particularly struck by the hand wound dynamo which became increasingly hard work as LED lights were replaced by halogens and then old-fashioned light bulbs.

The day finished with a visit to Raspberry PI, another extraordinary Cambridge success. Over 2 million of these low cost computers have been sold around the world and the money made goes into the Raspberry Pi Foundation to help promote computer education. As the Patron of Code Club, His Royal Highness is already a strong supporter of getting kids enthusiastic about programming. If you are thinking of setting one up, remember registered clubs get a free Raspberry Pi!

As Eben Upton, one of the founders said “Prince Andrew is the first member of the Royal Family I have ever mimed the plummet of a branded teddy bear from space in front of. This wasn’t just a visit for form’s sake; Prince Andrew was as well-informed about the background of our organisation; the changing curriculum in the UK; the growth of groups like Code Club, Young Rewired State, Teen Tech and the like; and the need for new young programmers, as any visitor we’ve crammed into our tiny meeting room.”

The Duke left with a Pi, which he promised to use – or at least make sure it gets used – and a heap of things for Cambridge to get on with before his next visit.

Dr David Cleevely, Founding Director, Centre for Science and Policy, University of Cambridge

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