Microsoft quiet on Cambridge plans

June 6, 1997

CAMBRIDGE University vice chancellor Alec Broers said this week that he is "very excited" about the prospect of setting up a multi-million pound research campus with computer giant Microsoft, but Microsoft has refused to confirm that discussions are under way.

Cambridge has confirmed "early discussions" with Microsoft "just as the university is in discussions with many international companies". It added: "These talks are very preliminary and there is nothing definite to report. We would be delighted if they resulted in some type of collaboration." A Microsoft spokesman said the company would "neither confirm nor deny any rumours of talks with Cambridge".

Cambridge said that Microsoft has "a strong track record of research, as does Cambridge University". Professor Broers is a former executive at computer company IBM. Cambridge's Lucasian professor of mathematics, Stephen Hawking, who is understood to be the linchpin of the deal, is a former tutor of Microsoft executive Nathan Myhrvold.

Alan Maltpress, chief executive of Cambridgeshire Training and Enterprise Council, said that Microsoft founder and chief executive Bill Gates "wants to come to Cambridge because so many Cambridge graduates go to work for him in America".

It is understood that the vision is to make Cambridge a "silicon fen" to rival America's Silicon Valley. The plan would be the largest investment of its kind in Britain.

Scientists at Oxford University, which has a close relationship with a similar giant computer research centre, Sharp Laboratories Europe, insisted that the plans did not destroy the notion of an Oxford-centred "UK Silicon Valley".

Peter Hoare, Oxford professor of computing, said: "We weren't competing with Cambridge in any way. We have a lot of research collaboration and I'm sure it will be in both our interests."

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