Nick Kirby, Managing Director of CBC Ltd, explains where CBC Ltd came from, and where we are going

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Nick Kirby Managing Director Cambridge Biomedical Campus Ltd

As we approach the end of our third year as an entity and agree our priorities for the year ahead with our partners, I thought it was a good time to explain what we are working towards and how CBC Ltd came to be. 

What is CBC Ltd? 

Most people in Cambridge have had some interaction with the Cambridge Biomedical Campus (CBC). It combines world-class biomedical research, patient care and education on a single site. It is a thriving community where the worlds of academia, industry, research and health meet, collaborate and work to tackle some of the significant healthcare challenges facing the world today. 

You may have received healthcare at one of the three NHS research hospitals, be one of the 23,000+ people employed here, gone past on the train or been along to one of the many events held here.  

It may not be clear from our name, but CBC Ltd doesn’t actually own the Campus land, rather we are a non-profit partnership of the organisations on the site that deliver healthcare, education and research in life sciences.  

Our purpose is to support the sustainable development of the site to keep it globally competitive as a centre for health, education and life sciences. We want to make the Campus a better place to work, visit and live beside. I joined last summer; we have a small team and work with a wider community of experts to help deliver our purpose. 

How did we get here? 

The strategic case for the Cambridge Biomedical Campus was first set out in the 2001 document “2020 Vision at Addenbrooke’s”, referring to the site “an exceptional opportunity to develop a centre of excellence in clinical treatment, education and research that would be unmatched in the UK”. It provided a roadmap to expanding the Campus and included plans to move the Royal Papworth Hospital to the site, amongst other things. 

In 2021, campus partners contributed to the 2050 Vision, after which CBC Ltd was formed. The Vision captured how the current occupiers (including the hospitals) felt the Campus should be developed to support life sciences and healthcare – it was not intended to provide a detailed delivery plan.  There was an engagement process with local groups and elected bodies and representatives, limited somewhat by Covid restrictions, but still representative. This feedback informed our subsequent work, in particular the 2022 Holistic Spatial Framework and more recently, our contributions to work led by landowners to produce a refreshed masterplan for the Campus.

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What does CBC Ltd do? 

A continued focus on healthcare 

In 2023 we commissioned a report to understand the health impact resulting from organisations on the Campus. This found that collaborations on CBC between health providers and research organisations “enhance biomedical research and facilitate the exchange of knowledge, resources, and expertise, which leads to improved health outcomes”. It’s a subject close to my heart, having worked in the NHS for 20 years, including on the Campus, and the tangible impact on patients shouldn’t be lost when we are talking about cutting edge science and research. 

Furthermore, we continue to stress the importance of investment in healthcare infrastructure as part of our engagements with local and national government leaders. This includes supporting the acceleration of planning for the new Cancer Research Hospital, continued support for the new Children’s Hospital and advocating for a new acute hospital to meet the needs of a growing local population.  

Making the Campus a great place to visit, work or live beside 

We run a programme of free and open-to-all events to encourage people to come together in shared spaces, meet new people and hopefully spark collaborations. From our latest open mic night, our menopause cafe and mindfulness walks, to our first CBC Fun Run, these events break down silos with the aim of making the Campus a better place for our staff and neighbours. More than half of our Campus Choir are local people who aren’t employed on site.  

The Biomedical Campus doesn’t operate in isolation. People coming here may be a patient, a visitor, an employee of one of our many organisations, or sometimes a combination of all three.  

As the Campus has grown, we’ve seen the infrastructure and amenities grow with it, but we want to continue to improve and develop the existing Campus to a more welcoming place which is integrated with the local community. To achieve this, we want our neighbours to help us shape the events we run, how people navigate their way around and improve the site. With that in mind, this year we are strengthening the way we engage with local people. Our new Local Voices programme regularly brings together a group of staff and neighbour volunteers to discuss how to make the Campus more user-friendly. On top of that, to maintain transparency, we will continue to have someone from the local community on CBC Ltd’s board as an observer. 

In January, we held our first biannual community forum, a public meeting where the team developing the new Children’s hospital gave a presentation on progress so far. Each meeting will feature a guest giving an update on a different part of the site. 

Those engagement programmes will focus more on improving the current Campus, but we also recognise people’s concerns around growth. That is why we are currently working with the organisations who own the proposed expansion land, to advise on how they might engage with the community about future growth plans.  

In addition to this, our senior team would welcome any opportunity to come and talk to your community organisation about the work we’re doing.

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Our open mic nights attract a range of talented staff and local people

Shaping Campus plans 

CBC Ltd members have an important contribution to make in shaping plans for how the Campus evolves – we are well placed to articulate how the collaboration between healthcare, education and life science partners can be harnessed to the benefit of local people, in particular through improved healthcare outcomes, scientific discovery and economic development. 

We are neither a landowner nor a developer, although some of our members own land on the Campus. This sometimes causes confusion, but it is worth noting that none of our partner organisations own land subject to proposals for expansion into the Green Belt. 

We do work with local government and landowners to share our views on how the Campus should develop to ensure we achieve impact in health, education and life sciences. This includes engaging government planning leads, working with landowners and developers to promote a holistic approach and promoting sustainable travel to, from and across the Campus. To support decision-making, we have commissioned two reports to understand the requirements related to both travel and transport and affordable housing of Campus employees, based on surveys, engagement and available data. We hope to publish these as they are completed in the coming months. We also recognise the wider spectrum of essential public infrastructure which is required for growth to be sustainable and inclusive and we are working with partners across the city to make the case for that infrastructure investment.

CBC Ltd is far from the only organisation with an important contribution to make in shaping the Biomedical Campus and we are keen to ensure all stakeholders, including the public, are aware of how they will be engaged on landowner-led submissions to the formal local planning processes, which form an important part of our local democracy.

We have some exciting plans for 2024, so do subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter/X. If you want to know more about the work of CBC Ltd and how you can get involved, get in touch.

Nick Kirby 

Managing Director of CBC Ltd