CB1 – the new city quarter for Cambridge


27 April 2020

How is Microsoft responding to the Covid-19 pandemic?

Seven years after moving into CB1, just what has been going on behind the doors of 21 Station Road and how is Microsoft responding to the Covid-19 pandemic?

Microsoft Teams rolled out across the NHS

Microsoft Research (MSR) – a subsidiary of global corporation Microsoft – chose Cambridge as its first research location outside of the US. Its mission is to ‘transform the world through research’. One of its main areas of investigation is into the ‘future of work’ and how Microsoft’s Office software can support businesses as they adapt to new ways of working. Microsoft Teams usage has jumped by 120% to 44 million users since January and the company has also joined forces with NHS Digital and Accenture to introduce new functions that will better support virtual consultations and clinical meetings. This will allow GPs to conduct ‘virtual visits’ with patients and increase the ease with which NHS staff working in isolation rooms are able to communicate without colleagues. The platform is being rolled out free of charge to staff across all NHS organisations.

Artificial Intelligence at Addenbrooke's

Another key research development underway in Cambridge is looking at the power of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to revolutionise healthcare and mental wellbeing. In partnership with Addenbrooke’s hospital, Microsoft is leveraging computer vision and machine learning to aid in the diagnosis and treatment of cancers, designing systems which can automatically define the edge of a tumour. The team also supports technologies and tools which offer methods for supporting and managing mental health, engaging with people to make more informed decisions about their own wellbeing. In February 2020, Microsoft also called out for project proposals for its AI for Accessibility programme, which accelerate mental health research and innovations using AI.

Data and Privacy Solutions 'Beyond the Cloud'

The Research team is also investigating innovative data and privacy solutions for storing information by going ‘beyond The Cloud’ to think about how we will be using technology in the future. In a first of its kind, Microsoft Research collaborated with Warner Brothers to retrieve and store the entire 1978 “Superman” movie on a piece of glass the size of a coaster and only 2mm thick. This is the first step towards storage technologies that can last hundreds of years, withstand floods and other environmental threats where previous archival methods would fail – could it be the future of data safeguarding?

Breakthroughs in Programming Biology

Finally, 21 Station Road also hosts a ‘wet lab’, where the team examines platforms for programming biology. This could lead to fundamental breakthroughs for medicine, agriculture, food and construction. The team is creating living software which will revolutionise how we might programme biology to consider its effects in developing new therapies and how we think about energy and planting crops.

The multi-disciplinary nature of the research lab, which allows interns and AI ‘residents’ to partner with researchers and engineers, aligns with Microsoft’s ambition to rethink diversity and be as inclusive as possible, looking not only at gender and age diversity but at multidisciplinary experience to create a buzzing community. “The proximity to great talent and the burgeoning technology hub – a combination of start-ups, established tech businesses and the proximity to the University – makes this a great community to be part of,” says Senior Business Manager, Rachel Howard.


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