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Cambridge Science Park celebrates its 40th birthday
Cambridge Science Park
Cambridge Science Park was the first to be developed in the UK

When Henry VIII gave a plot of land in Cambridge to Trinity College, he could not have imagined what it would become.

Initially used as farmland, the 152-acre site is now home to the Cambridge Science Park and houses 90 hi-tech and biotechnology companies.

In the 40 years since it first opened, the Science Park has brought us such everyday products as round tea bags and sell-by dates.

It is the hi-tech heart of what is now known as Silicon Fen.

Alan Richardson is the deputy chief executive of Cambridge Consultants, one of the earliest companies to move into the Science Park.

"I'm not sure in the 1960s they envisioned the way the Science Park would grow," he said.

"It's gone beyond being totally dependent on its links with the university. There are now world-class businesses, established in Cambridge, that are making a big contribution globally."

First to be built

Tea pouring into cup
Round tea bags were introduced thanks to Cambridge technology

In the 1960s, Harold Wilson made a speech about the white heat of technology transforming the British economy. The Science Park was Trinity College's response to that, and was the first to be built in the United Kingdom.

During World War II the site was used by the United States Army for D-Day preparations, but afterwards fell largely derelict.

In 1970, Trinity College applied for planning permission to turn the land into a science park and the first company, Laser-Scan, moved there in 1973.

By 1979, 24 other companies had joined it, including Cambridge Consultants.

Now it is home to more than 100 companies and is the hub of a cluster of around 1,500 hi-tech businesses in the Cambridge area, employing 40,000 people.

Tea bags and bluetooth

Cambridge Consultants is an example of the sort of business which has helped develop products most of us use every single day.

Set up in 1960, it specialises in developing new products for its clients. They arrive with an idea and ask the company to come up with an engineering solution to deliver it.

"We developed the first machine that could make round tea bags," explained Mr Richardson. "Which sounds like a nutty sort of thing, but the company we developed that for doubled their market share."

Cambridge Consultants also created the printing technology for sell-by dates on food. This is now used by Domino which is another Cambridgeshire company and employs 2,000 people.

Most mobile phones use bluetooth technology. The software and processer were both developed by Cambridge Consultants.

The newer companies are also innovating in ways that can transform people's lives.

Oval Medical Technologies, which opened on the Science Park in 2009, is developing a tiny auto-injector for patients to self-administer treatments.

"We had a vision that we wanted something about the size of a lipstick, with no buttons or levers," said Matthew Young, Oval's founder.

"So rather than the engineering being the master of the product, we put the people who were using it right at the very forefront."

Permission for hotel

The Science Park continues to expand and now includes a conference centre and restaurant, and an innovation centre.

Next on the horizon? Well, it is applying for planning permission for a hotel.

Meanwhile, Cambridge Consultants is producing what it hopes is this Christmas's must-have gadget. It's an internet radio without buttons or switches in the shape of a cube.

Users will simply pre-programme in their favourite four radio stations, with a station on each side of the cube. When they want to change channel, they simply turn it around to the side they want.

"You feel that the things that you work on get into production and make a difference," said Mr Richardson.

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