Cambridge could lose the status it gains from having Europe's greatest concentration of high technology firms unless it makes more use of information technology, says a study out this week.
The report, Cambridge 2020, addresses the concerns of planners, policy-makers and local residents that the inward migration of businesses and people in recent decades has threatened the quality of life. The worry has led South Cambridgeshire District Council to restrict development: late last year, it rejected a high-profile planning application by the Wellcome Institute to create a science park.
The study authors include Alec Broers, vice-chancellor of Cambridge University, who has played a key role in attracting high-technology firms to the region. They conclude that digital technologies being developed by many firms in the region can help dispel many of these concerns by enabling sophisticated trading and communication at a distance and delivering services through teleworking, telelearning and telemedicine.
The authors warn that unless a congested Cambridge pursues the digital route to expansion, the region could lose its position as a global high-technology player. Cambridge's business community "is increasingly coming to realise that the high-tech phenomenon in the area is at risk of being stifled from within", the report says.
Cambridgeshire has nearly 900 firms employing 28,000 people in the IT, electronics and health sciences sectors. The report says that high-technology firms accounted for almost 19 per cent of Cambridgeshire's gross domestic product in 1991, and this share is forecast to rise to 24 per cent in 2000.
The report's authors want the region to develop a more dynamic, entrepreneurial culture with the help of local higher education institutions.