Cambridge Network adapts in the face of unprecedented challenge

Cambridge Network CEO John Gourd

John Gourd, CEO, Cambridge Network

It’s no surprise that Cambridge Network and its members have risen to the challenges the pandemic has placed upon us.

Whether it is the incorporation of AI into drug discovery or the use of enhanced video imaging in agritech, Cambridge companies have been at the forefront of melding technologies to meet the demands of a global market since the earliest days of software and hardware development.

In fact, the Cambridge Phenomenon and the success of the local ecosystem has been built upon the foundations of resilience and adaptability.

No wonder Cambridge Network and its members have risen to the challenges the pandemic has placed upon us. And the lockdowns and subsequent restrictions have highlighted an even greater need for people and companies to make and maintain valuable connections.

As a Network, we have had to drastically adapt our business model.  No longer able to host face-to-face events, training sessions or jobs fairs, we quickly learnt how to move all this content online. This was initially achieved in a matter of days back in March and we have perfected our offering as we go. We are now able host multiple virtual sessions for significant audiences over the course of a day – for example our latest Recruitment Gateway jobs fair last month, which attracted more than 200 signups. Thanks to our dedicated cohort of Learning Collaboration trainers, all our CPD-accredited training is now also delivered online, with no compromise on quality.


While some of our usual activities were made difficult by the coronavirus outbreak, it has spurred us on to work more closely with our 1200-plus business members, encouraging them to promote themselves and to connect with each other. We provided a platform for many of them to talk about their work through Network-hosted webinars which have proved hugely popular. Many of them are available to view in full on our YouTube channel here.

Since the first lockdown, our team has run more than 70 webinars, attracting nearly 4000 participants from around 800 different organisations. Free to all members and with only a nominal charge to others, these one-hour sessions continue, and we have a forward calendar of diverse topics, all delivered virtually with the help of our expert members. Separately, we’ve also hosted four successful online jobs & careers fairs since March.

An unexpected but welcome benefit of the move to online delivery has been the increase in international participation in our activities. This can only be a plus for the reputation of Cambridge and the Network globally.

What happens next?

We can’t foresee a wholesale return to offices, or opportunities for large gatherings of people soon, although the availability of vaccines makes us hopeful that such things will be possible eventually.

We’re aware that nothing can fully replicate the pleasure of meeting a business contact face-to-face or the serendipitous joy when someone with a problem unexpectedly meets someone with a solution – this is when networking performs at its best. But until then, we’ll do our best to recreate these experiences online.

Cambridge is an exemplar of Darwin’s famous quote: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”


Adapted from articles which originally appeared in Catalyst magazine and Business Weekly


Cambridge Network is a membership organisation based in the vibrant high technology cluster of Cambridge, UK. We bring people together - from business and academia - to meet each other and share ideas, encouraging collaboration and partnership for shared success.

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