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Nigel Brown (1945-2023) OBE

Nigel Brown

Areas of Interest

Business, Music, Arts

Honorary Award

Honorary Doctor of Philosophy, 2004


The founder of NW Brown Group Ltd, Nigel Brown OBE retired as its Chairman in 2007. Nigel was appointed as an External Member of the University of Cambridge Council, at which time he also became Chairman of the University of Cambridge Audit Committee. He was Chairman of Greater Cambridge Partnership. His success was recognised by the Cambridge Evening News when he was named "Businessman of the Year 1997/98". His work with Great Eastern Investment Forum was invaluable for the many young businesses in the region that benefited from both the support and guidance of the group. Nigel's expertise in nurturing early-stage high-technology firms was recognised through his appointment as advisor on venture capital funding to the Government of Singapore. His love of music and the arts was reflected in his many other roles which include founder of classical music agency Hazard Chase, founder of ArtShare (a funding scheme for arts organisations), former Chairman of the Cambridge Arts Theatre, and patron of the Cambridge Music Festival and the NW Brown Music Prize. Nigel also provided sponsorship for Cambridge Wordfest.

Nigel was given an individual Queen's Award for Enterprise Support in July 2007, awarded an OBE in the New Year's Honours List January 2008, and was High Sheriff of Cambridgeshire for 2010/11.

In 2015, Nigel became Deputy Chairman of Anglia Ruskin's Board of Governors.


"The Senate of Anglia Polytechnic University has great pleasure in recommending the award of an Honorary Doctor of Philosophy degree to Nigel Wooldridge Brown, MA, Chairman of NW Brown Group, architect of The Great Eastern Investment Forum, founder of The Gateway Fund and Chairman of the Greater Cambridge Partnership. He is a patron of the arts in Cambridge, is committed to all things musical and is a keen sportsman. Today, we honour Nigel for his enterprise, his innovation and his extra-ordinary dynamism.

He underwent his early schooling at the famous 1,000 year-old Warwick School... before going on to read Medieval History at St Andrew's University in Scotland, where he obtained an MA degree with Honours. His working career began as a Trainee Jobber at Akroyd & Smithers in the City of London, from where he moved into Insurance Brokers JD Ward & Co, where he became Director and it was in 1974 that he founded the NW Brown Group in Cambridge.

NW Brown Group supplies a wide range of financial services to companies and to individuals, including investment management, stock broking, pensions, financial planning, insurance and corporate finance. However, much of Nigel's energy over the last years has gone into building the Great Eastern Investment Forum, a business angel group providing very early-stage venture capital. More recently, he has raised a first institutional round venture capital fund of £35m called The Gateway Fund, which is aimed exclusively at Cambridge high-tech businesses to which he is linked through his role as co-founder and non-executive director of The Cambridge Network Limited. Nigel is also Chairman of the Greater Cambridge Partnership, a local economic partnership of Cambridgeshire, Cambridge City, local business, health services, EEDA, APU and Cambridge University and he is also involved with Cambridge University through his appointment as a member of the Cambridge University Finance Committee and Trustee of the Cambridge Union Society. In 1997/98 he earned the Cambridge Evening News Business Man of the Year Award.

As a patron of the arts, Nigel has encouraged (including hosting fund-raising events) the Centre for the Arts at APU, is Chairman of Cambridge Arts Theatre and is founder, now also a Non-Executive Director, of the classical music agency Hazard Chase. He has devised a unique musical instrument scheme to boost the careers of gifted young musicians by enabling them access to the highest quality musical instruments much earlier than would normally be possible, for example a Stradivarius violin, a Montagnana cello and a Guarneri violin, so far and is currently raising a further £0.75m for a Guadagnini cello. Nigel has also created the ArtShare concept, whereby young companies donate a shareholding which in due course becomes an asset to be used for local art initiatives when the company develops and flourishes. Nigel is also a Trustee of the Becker Collection of fine stringed instruments, a Trustee of the Mendelssohn on Mull Festival, Patron of the Cambridge Music Festival and a Member of King's College Chapel Foundation Committee. Meanwhile, NW Brown Group was an event sponsor in the recent Cambridgeshire literary festival, designated Cambridge Wordfest '04.

Nigel is also a very keen sportsman in the areas of real tennis and motor-cycle racing, in which activity he animates the Red Kite racing Team which was a runner-up in the 2001 UK Endurance Championship. He is also a true connoisseur of fine wines, having developed this interest and talent during his early days among the wine importers of the City of London.

It has been commented that when the history of the Cambridge phenomenon is written, a prominent name will be that of Mr Nigel Brown. Over the years since he started NW Brown in 1974, he has played a highly significant role in the success of many small-to-medium-size enterprises (SMEs) in and around Cambridge and has also made an important contribution to the development and outworking of plans of a number of regional bodies which, together, have contributed greatly to the overall advantageous economic climate in East Anglia. Also, through a range of most inventive initiatives, he has been a champion for the arts... in drama, pastel, music and literature.

It is for these reasons, therefore, that I invite you, Vice-Chancellor, to confer on Nigel Wooldridge Brown, MA, an Honorary Doctor of Philosophy degree of this University."