MPs: Tech hubs should be 'Turing Centres'

A planned network of centres to promote and commercialise technology research should be named after mathematician Alan Turing, according to a government committee

Planned technology centres that support research and the commercialisation of ideas should be named after mathematician Alan Turing, according to an influential government committee.

Alan Turing image

A Committee of MPs has said that new technology centres should be named after Alan Turing, who is famous for his work at Bletchley Park. Photo credit: ZDNet UK

Andrew Miller, Labour MP and chair of the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, said that the Technology and Innovation Centres (TICs) should instead be known as Turing Centres.

"TICs sound like something that irritates you," Miller told ZDNet UK on Wednesday. "We sat down and said, 'What British scientist has had an impact on his or her own discipline [and beyond]?' I challenge anyone to top Turing."

Miller added that "Britain owes something to Turing". The mathematician and cryptographer worked at World War II code-breaking centre Bletchley Park, and is widely recognised for his contributions to computer science and the Allied war effort. In 2009, Gordon Brown issued an apology for the authorities' "unfair" treatment of Turing, who killed himself in 1954 after being forced to undergo a two-year course of chemical castration.

TICs are an initiative that was started by the previous Labour government. The research and development centres will be funded over four years with a grant of £200m. The organisation that oversees the centres is the Technology Strategy Board (TSB), which operates under the aegis of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS).

Fraunhofer Institute

In a report laid before parliament on Thursday, the House of Commons committee recommended that the TIC centres, which are based on the model of the German Fraunhofer Institute, should initially number between six and eight.

"It's very important that businesses developing new ideas know where to go and get help.

– Andrew Miller MP

"£200m, against the background of financial pressures at the present time, is a small sum of money," said Miller. "It's not enough, but it's a step in the right direction. If we wanted the equivalent of Fraunhofer in Germany, of 60 or 70 institutions, that would be tuppence ha'penny [each], and spread too thinly to achieve much."

Presently, small businesses do not have much of an idea about current avenues of government help in getting innovative ideas to market, according to Miller. This could be remedied by producing an online catalogue of centres willing to work with companies, he suggested.

"It's very important that businesses developing new ideas know where to go and get help," Miller added.

BIS told ZDNet UK on Thursday that the TSB was consulting on the naming of the centres. "We welcome the committee's suggestion [of Turing Centres]," said a BIS spokeswoman. "The Technology Strategy Board is currently consulting on suggestions for suitable names for the Technology and Innovation Centres and will report back in due course."

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