What is the Golden Triangle in the UK?

21.11.17 5 MINUTE READ

Oxford building

Bidwells guide to the Golden Triangle, comprising the elite UK universities in London, Oxford, and Cambridge.

The Golden Triangle is a term that was initially used to describe the grouping of elite, highly-funded universities located in the southern English cities of Oxford, Cambridge, and London. These universities are prominent in the world of education and innovation, or the ‘knowledge’ sector, both in the UK and on a global scale.

Increasingly the term is also being used to describe the growth of the technology and life sciences sectors in the cities of Oxford, Cambridge, and Milton Keynes.

The universities that form the Golden Triangle include:

  • The University of Oxford, Oxford
  • The University of Cambridge, Cambridge
  • Imperial College London, London
  • King’s College, London
  • London School of Economics, London
  • University College London, London

The University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge form two corners of the triangle, while London’s Imperial College, University College London, King’s College London, and the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) make up the third corner.

Highest Research Incomes, Funding, and Endowments

The institutions that form the Golden Triangle receive some of the highest research incomes, funding and grants from the UK government, and the largest financial endowments of all British universities.

These academic members of the Golden Triangle work collaboratively with initiatives like G5, Global Medical Cluster, MedCity, and SES, to ensure that the Golden Triangle becomes a global science and innovation hub.


Institution Location Endowment (2016)
University of Cambridge Cambridge, Cambridgeshire £3.78 billion (includes colleges)
Imperial College London London, Greater London £126.2 million
King’s College London, Greater London £194.1 million
London School of Economics London, Greater London £119.2 million
University of Oxford Oxford, Oxfordshire £5.07 billion (includes colleges)
University College London London, Greater London £101 million


Why is the Golden Triangle important for UK business and industry?

Cambridge, Oxford, Milton Keynes, and London, the four most prominent cities within the Golden Triangle, continue to achieve impressive business growth across numerous sectors, including digital technology, innovation, life sciences, medicine and more. Notably, six of the top ten most productive cities in the UK in 2017 fall within the Golden Triangle and Eastern region, with productivity at its highest in Oxford, Cambridge, Milton Keynes, and London.



Cambridge has the highest concentration of digital tech expertise in the UK outside of London and is ranked 12th in the European Digital City Index. The city has also been dubbed ‘Silicon Fen’ after generating revenue of £2.1bn for the UK economy, attracting over £153m in digital tech investments and providing over 30 000 digital tech jobs to the UK market. Cambridge has also been named one of Glassdoor’s top three ‘Best UK Cities for Jobs’.



Oxford boasts one of the most dynamic digital tech economies in the UK, and in 2016, Oxford University attracted £632.5m of funding from 59 companies. What’s more, the latest research from Bidwells found that there has been a 74% increase in office and laboratory demand in the area. Oxford is also notable for being home to the ‘Best University’ for 2018, according to Times World University Rankings.


Milton Keynes

Milton Keynes holds the honour of being one of the UK’s leading cities in ‘Smart City’ technology. Smart City technology is a term used to describe a city’s use of sensors to monitor air pollution, water, and energy usage, as well as living patterns to detect early signs of illness. Milton Keynes is also described as one of the UK’s Fast Growth Cities, overtaking Cambridge as the UK’s fastest-growing town or city with an economy on course to be £226 million larger by the end of 2017. Milton Keynes is also a leading city for tech innovation, and with the launch of MK Data Hub in 2016, the city has become a hub for data start-ups too.



Despite the impact of Brexit on London’s economy as well as more people moving to areas like Oxford and Milton Keynes, the city’s ‘knowledge’ economy has continued to thrive. London was named the ‘Digital Capital of Europe’ by Tech Nation while the city amassed an astonishing £2.2bn in investments in 2016, more than £1bn more than two of its nearest European counterparts, Paris and Amsterdam.


More Affordable Office Space

In terms of cost advantages over its US counterparts, asking rent for lab and office space in Silicon Valley currently sits at around £42 per sq. ft. and around £63 at MIT, compared to the Golden Triangle, where on average rent costs are £33 per sq. ft. That said, strong demand, low occupancy rates, and a high quality of living suggests that rent across the Golden Triangle will continue to rise.


Prime Office and Lab Space

Strong demand for office and lab space in the Golden Triangle has pushed up rents in the area. The first half of 2017 saw prime office and lab rents in Cambridge and Oxford surge ahead as the ‘knowledge’ economy strengthens:

Prime office rent in Cambridge increased by 2.7%
Oxford rent saw a significant increase of 7.1%


A Hub of Innovation within the ‘Knowledge’ Sector

The area has always attracted attention due to the prestige of the academic institutions, but has now become a hub for innovation in various sectors, major business and property developments, investments, and new initiatives, as well as home to many companies in the ‘knowledge’ sector. Companies are setting up offices in the Golden Triangle due to the high volume of talented graduates, excellent transport links across the UK and the high quality of life in each of these cities.

In a recent report, Bidwells found that Cambridge and Oxford are attracting a wealth of digital tech and science firms while the Cambridge-Oxford-London Golden Triangle is a world leader in life sciences and continues to expand rapidly.

According to Economic Intelligence Unit (EIU) data, the total turnover in the UK life sciences sector in 2015 reached a substantial £60.7bn, with majority of activity concentrated in the Golden Triangle.

What’s more, the Bidwells Biopharma Cambridge and Oxford cluster analysis completed earlier this year revealed the names of 600 companies, from multinationals to start-ups that operate in these locations, with a combined market cap of £5.7bn.


How the Golden Triangle Compares to its International Counterparts

In 2017 alone, British universities gained top international rankings in prestigious publications around the world, including the Times Higher Education and Forbes. Oxford and Cambridge have risen above top Ivy League universities in the United States, such as Harvard, Yale, and Princeton, as well as prestigious US, overtaking the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and the University of California, Berkley.

The gap between the universities within the Golden Triangle and the rest of the country is due to various factors, but most notably due to huge investments in staff, facilities, and technology, as well as the international prestige associated with institutions like Oxford and Cambridge.


Predictions for the Golden Triangle Area and Future Trends

In 2016, Brexit fuelled uncertainty within the UK economic and property markets, but these have since stabilised in the areas within the Golden Triangle. According to the Property Trends seminar hosted by Bidwells, the Cambridge-London-Oxford triangle continues to enjoy strong growth and is well placed to weather the ongoing uncertainty caused by Brexit.

These cities are well placed to benefit from the growth of the digital economy and investment in the Cambridge-Milton Keynes-Oxford corridor. Bidwells also forecast an increased investment turnover in life sciences, property, which will feed through to higher rents and enhanced capital values for commercial property within the Golden Triangle.

Bidwells is the UK’s leading advisor to the science and technology sector and currently advises on over 15 million square feet of research and development real estate within the Golden Triangle of Oxford, Cambridge, and London.

The first half of 2017 saw prime office and lab rents in Cambridge and Oxford surge ahead as the ‘knowledge’ economy strengthens.


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Dick Wise

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Dick leads our award-winning business space agency teams across the south of England and is one of Cambridgeshire’s best known and leading property advisors.

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