Relocating for STEM: 7 reasons to move to Cambridge for work
Known globally for its renowned university, aesthetic green spaces, and cutting-edge tech innovation, the East Anglia city of Cambridge offers a fantastic quality of life without compromising on career opportunities or things to do.
In 2020, Glassdoor named Cambridge as the second-best place to work in the UK. Meanwhile, the Cambridge Cluster — Europe’s largest technology cluster that covers a 30km radius from the city centre — employs over 250,000 people and saw a workforce increase of 5.6% between 2018 and 2019.
No wonder that STEM workers and investors alike are flocking to the city in their droves. Here are seven reasons why setting up shop in Cambridge represents a great career move.
1) A world-leading STEM hub
Cambridge’s thriving global technology hub, colloquially known as Silicon Fen, is one of the region’s main employers in the region and continues to attract throngs of highly-skilled workers to the area — particularly in areas such as R&D, pharmaceuticals, and engineering.
As one of Europe’s most important biotech and life science centres, the so-called Cambridge Cluster (consisting of STEM businesses located within a 30km radius of the city centre) is growing exponentially. Tech firms are opening new offices each year, and the workforce continues to expand.
Cambridge Science Park is home to over 100 companies — from established life science multinationals to budding tech startups. Pharma giant AstraZeneca recently moved its global headquarters to Cambridge, while Raspberry Pi, the Hilton Food Group, and Huawei are all based in and around the city, too.
In total, the top 100 companies in Cambridge have a combined turnover of over £10bn. Clearly, business is booming — making a sizeable contribution to the UK economy and driving further demand for a versatile and enterprising STEM workforce.
2) Competitive salaries
Salaries in Cambridge are well above the average for the UK, though not as high as London. As of January 2021, the average salary in the city is £34,000.
While house prices are expensive for the UK, housing costs are still around 30% cheaper than London. According to Zoopla, the current average house price in January 2021 is £ £449,463. Of course, there are cheaper locations in Britain, but similarly sought-after hotspots (such as London and Brighton) are far more expensive.
3) The university
It’s impossible to mention Cambridge without its world-famous, 800-year-old university. Widely regarded as the UK’s top university alongside Oxford, its campus is easily distinguishable thanks to its iconic medieval stone colleges.
Notable alumni of the University of Cambridge include Charles Darwin, Alan Turing, Stephen Hawking, Sir David Attenborough, Emma Thompson, and Sacha Baron Cohen (the list is so long and illustrious that it could take up this entire blog — and then some). If that’s not all, the university boasts 121 Nobel laureates — second only to Harvard.
More importantly, the university is also a major STEM employer and maintains strong links with Cambridge Science Park. For those looking to expand their skill set and horizons outside of working hours, the Institute of Continuing Education (ICE) provides a wealth of residential, online, weekend, summer, and part-time courses, as well as public lectures.
4) Food & culture
Thanks to its cosmopolitan population, large student base, and sizeable contingent of young professionals, Cambridge has long attracted scholars, tourists, and workers thanks to its wide range of cultural pursuits.
With a prosperous cultural scene that stretches back into the Middle Ages, this ancient city is home to several leading music, dance, theatre, and comedy venues, including the Corn Exchange and Cambridge Arts Theatre. For a spot of quiet contemplation, its museums and galleries are well up to the task, too.
Cambridge is the undisputed food capital of East Anglia. This is typified by its vibrant pub scene — from raucous city-centre boozers to cosy, scenic gastropubs by the riverside. Celebrated foodie hotspots include Ivy Brasserie, Restaurant 22, Al Pomodoro, and the 2-Michelin-starred Midsummer House.
Retail opportunities abound in Cambridge. The city’s open-air markets trade seven days a week, selling everything from Asian street food to antique wares. Independent shops of all varieties can be found on almost every street corner. And, if the high street is more your thing, all the leading retail brands can be found in the city centre.
5) Getting around
Being a small, compact city of only 129,000 people (25,000 of whom are students), Cambridge is an eminently walkable place with plenty of opportunity for exercise and outdoors activity.
Aside from the pretty medieval streets of the city centre, it’s hard to imagine Cambridge without punts floating down the River Cam and its connected waterways. These historic, flat-bottomed vessels have transported people up and down the river for centuries and represent the best way to experience the city.
The cycling infrastructure of the city is also among the best in the country. (According to Cambridge City Council data, one in four residents cycle to work — making it the unofficial cycling capital of Britain). The Chisholm Trail, an exciting new cycling superhighway, will connect the city’s two railway stations and offer a green, traffic-free route for commuters, students, and daytrippers alike.
If a cheap, healthy, and aesthetically pleasing commute is what you’re after, few places in the UK can match Cambridge.
6) Transport connections
Despite being relatively isolated in the heart of rural East Anglian fenland, Cambridge has superb transport connections to the rest of Britain.
The nearby M11 gives quick road access to both London and the north-south A1 route, while a train to London King’s Cross takes a mere 50 minutes. Norwich and Peterborough are also easy to reach, too.
For those looking to escape the high property prices and urban intensity of London without going too far afield, Cambridge provides this and more — all while keeping the capital within easy reach. This makes it an ideal base for people who frequently visit Greater London for work.
If you’ve got your sights further afield for a family holiday or quick weekend getaway, Cambridge also delivers the goods. London Stansted Airport, the UK’s fourth-largest airport, is only 30 minutes via train or 40 minutes in the car.
7) Countryside escapism
Thanks to its compact nature, Cambridge has avoided the urban sprawl that characterises most British cities. Wherever you are in Cambridge, you’ll be a 5-minute car ride or 15-minute cycle away from the surrounding countryside.
Situated in a low-lying region of Britain, the area is ideal for long, relaxed bike rides under the summer sun. Indeed, the are over 80 miles of Fenland-flat bike paths for you to enjoy.
With verdant greenery and low rainfall, South Cambridgeshire has even been voted the best rural place to live in Britain.
Offering a unique blend of picturesque reverie and forward-thinking innovation, Cambridge is a city that has it all. And as the home to so many leading STEM organisations, job opportunities in the sector are only set to increase.
If you’re moving from a major global city such as London or New York, living and working in Cambridge will lay down the groundwork for a less stressful and healthier life, saving you money in the process.
Relocating is rarely easy, but few places make it as easy as Cambridge.
If you’re thinking of making Cambridge home, check out the latest STEM jobs in Cambridge by using the job search.
Latest News, Events & Insights
Why is Diverse Leadership in STEM Important?
Jacob Midwinter, Director of Sales and Search by SRG, discusses the key success factors behind driving diversity in leadership, as well as the challenges and opportunities leaders in STEM can expect to encounter along the way, with senior leaders Julia Buckler - QIAGEN, Dr. Amy Smith - CPI, Rich McLean - GPAS, Dr. Garry Pairaudeau - Exscientia, and Professor Charlotte Deane - Exscientia.