Government technology centres 'should be named after Turing'

The parliamentary Science and Technology Committee has recommended that the government's new Technology and Innovation Centres (TICs) should be called "Turing Centres" after Alan Turing, a founder of modern computer science.

The government has put aside £200 million to set up a network of TICs and the committee made a number of recommendations in how they should be set up and run.

Andrew Miller MP, chair of the Science and Technology Committee, said: "Alan Turing played a significant role in the creation of the modern computer. He was an accomplished mathematician who was highly influential in the development of computer science.

"It would be a fitting tribute to honour his contribution to the development of modern computing technology by naming the network of TICs 'Turing Centres'."

Turing was a mathematician and computer scientist. He provided a formalisation of the concept of the algorithm and computation with the "Turing machine", which played a significant role in the creation of the modern computer. He was also a leading cryptographer at Bletchley Park during the Second World War, and helped to crack the Nazis' "unbreakable" military codes.

In 1952, Turing was prosecuted for gross indecency after admitting a sexual relationship with a man. As an alternative to prison, Turing was given experimental chemical castration as a "treatment".

He died two years later. An inquest determined it was suicide but some believe it may have been accidental. In 2009, Gordon Brown, as prime minister, made an official public apology about the way in which Turing was treated.

As the parliamentary Science and Technology Committee issued its report into the Technology and Innovation Centres, it made a number of other comments about the government proposals.

An initial target of six to eight TIC centres across the UK "seems to be sensible", it said. While the committee also supported the idea of other TICs being added in the future, it said it did not want to see funding spread too thinly in the process.

It said funding for each centre should follow the "one third, one third, one third" model used by equivalent technology centres in Germany, the Fraunhofer Institutes. In Germany, such centres are financed through one third public funding from government, one third competitive public-private sector funding, and one third from private sector contracts from businesses.

The committee also recommended a cap on the amount of private sector funding each TIC can access in a given year "in order to promote a more creative approach to innovation".

Miller said, "It is important that TICs work with businesses of all sizes. We hope that small companies get involved and that this will strengthen their financial base and increase lenders' and financiers' confidence in their commercial prospects."

There are already a number of centres across the UK working on innovation and the commercialisation of research, and the committee said TICs should build on these facilities and the expertise contained within them.

The quality of the science and the economic benefit to the UK must be the primary factors in deciding where the TICs are located, the committee added.

On the management of intellectual property rights, the committee said this area will be "crucial" to an effective working relationship between TICs, academia and business. But a formula for IP management still had to be worked out, said the committee's report.

Miller added, "It is important that the limited funds for innovation are not monopolised by the TICs. Funding for innovation must be available to those outside the new centres, as their work may be the basis of the TICs of the future."

Science papers written by Alan Turing fetched large amounts of money at auction last year.

Photo Bob Lord

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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