Cambridge is somewhere which has always been at the cutting edge of invention. It’s somewhere I’m proud to work and is known throughout the world thanks to the brilliant people who have lived here. Isaac Newton first calculated the speed of sound here, Watson and Crick burst into the local pub The Eagle to announce their discovery of the structure of DNA and Dr Stephen Hawking could regularly be seen around the city as he lectured at the university. Papworth Hospital was the first UK hospital to perform a heart transplant, the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca holds its headquarters here and the ground-breaking computer Raspberry Pi was invented here and has just opened its first physical shop in the Grand Arcade. And those are just a handful of examples!
More and more innovations are being made every day and I was lucky enough to visit Barclays Eagle Labs to learn about how they are supporting Cambridge businesses to become the next AstraZeneca or Raspberry Pi.
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Barclays have drawn from their financial roots to develop this new and exciting arm of their company, helping businesses to thrive and grow. There are Eagle Labs all over the country, but the first Incubator Hub and Maker Space both launched here in Cambridge. They have different purposes and support businesses in different ways so I was excited to learn more about what they had to offer businesses, the city and people like me.
First, we headed to the Barclays Eagle Labs Incubator Hub, a co-working space on Chesterton Road. There, we met some of the businesses who had set up their companies at the Eagle Labs and they were all so much more varied than I expected. Algodynamix had been inspired by studying electrocardiograms to create a software which predicted the rise and fall of stocks and shares, Satavia had learnt to study air pollution levels to predict the deterioration of aeroplane engines and ElectronRX was developing tech to create a “digital pill” for the healthcare industry, with potentially life-changing effects. It was fascinating to hear about their origin stories and what exciting innovations are being created in Cambridge.
The theme that came out throughout the chats with all three businesses was their love for Barclays and the Eagle Labs. The reasoning for their choice to work at the Incubator Hub was often that it “just felt right” and this emotional connection and passion for the Hub was evident in everyone we spoke to. It certainly helps that it’s also a pretty cool space to work with bright sofas, geeky cushions and a trendy and well stocked kitchen, including a beer fridge. I’d love for my workplace to have one of those! Barclays also clearly had great pride for the businesses in their space and want them to succeed. In fact, Barclays refer to these businesses as “graduates” who have out-grown the Hub and moved on to their own office space as a result of their time at the Eagle Labs.
Next, we headed to the Maker Space on Cherry Hinton Road, across from the city. This Eagle Lab was a little different to the first and focused more on turning ideas into reality, thanks to the technology available in this practical space. Three main pieces of state-of-the-art equipment are available to use; a laser cutter, a vinyl cutter and a 3D printer as well as a tool room. Once you’ve received a free induction, anyone can pay per half hour to use the equipment. In fact, I learnt that Jo from Hello Sunshine creates some of her gorgeous products here so it's amazing to know that local Cambridge independents are able to manufacture their creations in the city itself.
The Maker Space also focuses on teaching new skills, including coding. I've always wanted to learn to code but I've never known where to start, so I was delighted when we were told that we would be learning Python. We started by programming a microchip, plugged into our laptops, using a website called micro:bit. Yes, it's aimed at children, but it was a great way to start to understand the basics of coding, even if you are a total newbie. Before long, we had learnt how to code a LED smiley face to appear on our microchip when we pressed a button - incredible! Then, we progressed to the big stuff; assembling then coding a mini-robot, which could be steered using our microchip. Tipping the microchip forwards moved the robot forwards, backwards reversed and side to side... well, you probably guessed it! Now our robots could manoeuvre we put them to the test with a game of table football. You could definitely tell that I'm not a gamer but it was so much fun and I felt such a sense of accomplishment after my first attempt at coding.
Eagle Labs offer these workshops to schools, businesses and any other community groups who might want to give it a go and I would love to return and learn even more. What I really loved was how fun and practical Paul, the Lab Engineer, made the session and I could easily imagine a group of school children being just as enthralled as I was! It's fascinating to think that Eagle Labs are helping to prepare children for jobs which don't even exist yet, but if you think about social media, it's a similar example for my generation. With the world so rapidly changing, I constantly feel like I need to stay ahead of the curve but with the help of Barclays Eagle Labs, I know I can be involved with innovation in Cambridge.
Interested in learning more about what Barclays Eagle Labs can do for your business? Read my blog post for Visit Cambridge and Beyond here.
Barclays have asked me to include the following disclaimer: We are not responsible for, nor do we endorse in any way such products. We are not responsible for, nor do we endorse in any way such third party websites or their content. If you decide to access any of the third party websites, you do so entirely at your own risk.