chapter  5
25 Pages

The Cambridge Phenomenon

In 1985, when the spin-off and start-up activities in Cambridge were examined in the study “Cambridge Phenomenon”, the authors noted several key characteristics of this 700-year-old university: informal communications arising from the collegiate structure, flexible employment, and liberal policies on intellectual property rights.1 They argued that these characteristics helped maintain the network of people loosely connected with start-ups, and later called it “paradoxical permeability of the University’s medieval structures”. This chapter develops their argument further and argues that Cambridge’s boundaries are not just permeable, but indeed “fuzzy,” and that these fuzzy boundaries enabled the development of characteristically deep industry-university relationships. To do this, I define an essence of “fuzziness” and distinguish it from the permeable nature of the organizational boundaries characteristic in MIT on the one hand, and the impermeable ones in Tokyo on the other.