Cambridge University’s economic impact

The University contributes nearly £30 billion to the UK economy and supports more than 86,000 jobs across the UK.

Published 20 March 2023

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report by London Economics has measured the University of Cambridge’s impact on the UK economy in 2020-21.

London Economics, one of Europe’s leading specialist economics and policy consultancies, was commissioned to assess the University’s economic impact through a range of activities.

The total impact, estimated at £29.8 billion, includes:

  • £23.1 billion – from the University’s research and knowledge exchange activities (including commercial companies spun out from, or closely associated with, the University and other commercial activity carried out at the University)
  • £4.69 billion – from the impact generated by the spending of the University and its colleges
  • £716 million – from the University’s educational exports
  • £693 million – from the University’s teaching and learning activities
  • £587 million – from the impact of tourism associated with the University

The report estimated that the University supports more than 86,000 jobs across the UK, including 52,000 in the East of England, and contributes over £13 billion in gross value added (GVA).

For every £1 the University spends, it creates £11.70 of economic impact.

For every £1 million of publicly funded research income the University receives, it generates £12.65 million in economic impact across the UK.

London Economics also carried out a comparison of the costs and benefits associated with almost 600 government regulatory impact assessments and found that very few government interventions bring higher economic benefits than investment in the University of Cambridge.

Total economic impact of the University of Cambridge’s activities in 2020-21 by region (where possible)

Note: Economic impact from knowledge exchange, educational exports, operating and capital expenditure, and tourism activities disaggregated by region, and presented in terms of GVA and FTE employment. These strands make up approximately £24,108 million (81%) of the University of Cambridge’s total impact of £29,801 million. Monetary estimates are presented in 2020-21 prices, discounted to reflect net present values (where applicable), rounded to the nearest £1 million, and may not add up precisely to the totals indicated. Employment estimates are rounded to the nearest 5, and again may not add up precisely to the totals indicated.
Source: London Economics’ analysis.

“This report demonstrates how international excellence coupled with a deliberate strategy of investing in innovation creates jobs and significant growth for the UK economy.

An early commitment to Horizon Europe, the EU research funding body which provides billions of pounds in research support for academics across Europe, is essential to underpinning future success.

Horizon Europe provides not only the stability of funding required to make long-term research plans but also access to vital international networks and collaborations.”

Dr Anthony Freeling, Acting Vice-Chancellor

Dr Anthony Freeling reflects on the University’s impact and contributions to economic growth:

The mission of the University of Cambridge is to contribute to society through the pursuit of education, learning and research at the highest international levels of excellence.

In pursuing this mission, the University rightly focuses on academic excellence. We educate some of the brightest minds from the United Kingdom and from around the world. Cambridge has been the birthplace of many of the world’s greatest intellectual achievements, and has nurtured many of the world’s leading scientists and scholars – from Isaac Newton to Charles Darwin to Jocelyn Bell Burnell; and from Bertrand Russell to John Maynard Keynes to Mary Beard. Our 121 Nobel Prize Winners attest to this record.

There is an aspect of the University’s contribution to society that remains to be fully told – the story of Cambridge’s economic contribution to the UK.

Alongside their social and cultural impact, Cambridge graduates and academics make a significant contribution to the British economy through research breakthroughs and entrepreneurial activities, as well as through the enhanced value and the skills they bring to their employment.

This report by London Economics is a comprehensive attempt to estimate the economic value that the University of Cambridge brings to the UK.

The University of Cambridge’s activities have changed people’s lives for the better because we have been successful at getting research to market, and in doing so helped create significant economic growth both around Cambridge and across the UK. Some of the depth and breadth of this influence is illustrated on the University’s UK impact map and global impact map [see below], which contain examples of economic, health, social, environmental and other research impact mapped to regions of the UK and around the world.


contributed to the UK economy, of which £23bn comes from research-related activities


full-time jobs supported across the UK, including 52,000 in the East of England

benefit-to-cost ratio of Cambridge’s economic impact compared with operational costs

Economic growth

Cambridge is the most successful cluster and local ecosystem in the UK. Just over £23 billion (78%) of our economic impact is generated by the companies spun out from – or closely associated with – the University, as well as research and commercial activities carried out at the University.

This includes the impact of 178 spinouts and 213 start-up companies that have connections to the University. It is the biggest impact of any university in the UK. Success is the result of long-term, strategic decisions that have established the University at the heart of one of the world’s most successful innovation and technology clusters.

Growing the Cambridge ecosystem into one of the world’s leading innovation clusters did not happen by accident. It is the result of a culture of excellence, underpinned by a depth and breadth of teaching, research and innovation that connects the discovery of new knowledge with the expertise to turn these ideas into companies and organisations that change people’s lives.

The University has helped harness a winning combination of venture capital, government-supported capital investment and infrastructure funding (e.g. the 2016 Cambridge City Deal) through a very deliberate strategy of investing in innovation and commercialisation over past decades that includes:

  • Trinity College establishing the UK’s first science park in 1970;
  • An enlightened IP policy that encourages further investment;
  • A culture that encourages innovation and entrepreneurship;
  • The establishment of both a knowledge transfer and early investment arm, Cambridge Enterprise, and a follow-on investment arm, Cambridge Innovation Capital, which makes capital available at all stages of the investment journey from pre-seed to early scaling.

To build on this success, Innovate Cambridge – founded by Cambridge Enterprise, Cambridge Innovation Capital and the University – is joining with more than 100 partners, including AstraZeneca, Microsoft and Arm, to develop an ambitious and broad-ranging vision of innovation for the Greater Cambridge area. The goal is to accelerate progress, and for the Greater Cambridge ecosystem to accomplish in the next 10 years the same success as in the past 25 years.

Achieving this ambition requires action in three areas of policy: better infrastructure in the city and region including laboratory space, affordable housing and transport; better access to talented, skilled individuals from across the world; and better investment and access to capital. The University and our partners across the UK will continue to work with the government to develop solutions in these areas and grow the economic impact of the University alongside academic excellence.

Dr Anthony Freeling
Acting Vice-Chancellor

Explore Cambridge’s impact using our interactive maps

UK map

Discover some of the ways that our research benefits the UK – locally, regionally and nationally

Global map

… and has a positive impact in all seven continents, covering more than 100 countries.

Published 20 March 2023

Infographics and imagery: Alison Fair
Animation: Jonathan Settle
Design: Louise Walsh

The text in this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License