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Alan Turing

Swindon may bid to establish chancellor’s Alan Turing Institute

Exclusive Swindon may bid for the Alan Turing Institute for ‘big data’ and algorithm research to be established in the town, following a surprise announcement by George Osborne in his Budget speech on Wednesday.

Speaking at a budget review hosted by chartered accountants Banks last night (Thursday), Forward Swindon director Ian Piper said the town would look seriously at establishing the new research centre that will help the UK “out-compete, out-smart and out-do the rest of the world.”

Mr Piper told the meeting of business leaders: “Swindon is a highly innovative town. It is second only to Cambridge in patent registrations [see Innovative Swindon ranked UK #2 for creating patents].

“The Government is promising £42 million over five years – and we could be bidding as Swindon and Wiltshire to house the institute.”

The Alan Turing Institute will focus on new ways of collecting, organising and analysing large sets of data – commonly known as ‘big data’.

Delivering his Budget speech in the House of Commons, the Chancellor, George Osborne, said: “In my maiden speech here in this House, I spoke of Alan Turing, the code-breaker who lived in my constituency, who did more than almost any other single person to win the war, and who was persecuted for his sexuality by the country he helped save.

“I am delighted that he has finally received a posthumous royal pardon.

“Now, in his honour, we will found the Alan Turing Institute to ensure Britain leads the way again in the use of big data and algorithm research.

“I am determined that our country is going to out-compete, out-smart and out-do the rest of the world.”

The commercial exploitation of large databases, such as those held by the public sector, is expected to benefit the British economy by £261 billion and create 58,000 jobs before 2017, the Government said.

Mr Piper said Swindon could also bid to establish a Cell Therapy Manufacturing Centre to exploit developments on stem cell science – a project worth £55 million of government funding over five years.

Poring over the Budget, and applying the key points to Forward Swindon’s aims of urban regeneration and attracting inward investment, Mr Piper said he was disappointed that there had been no reform of the business rates, something that would help lift Swindon’s town centre, but welcomed help for both house builders and homebuyers as Swindon looks to expand by 8,000 households in the ‘eastern villages’.

He also welcomed the removal of the country-wide cap of 90,000 students in university education. “That could be a game changer,” he said. “The cap has been the main barrier to establishing a university in Swindon, because we’ve been relying on other universities using their allocation to educate their students in our town.”

The meeting also heard from Allan Oates, the boss of Fastlink Data Cables at Cheney Manor, which designs and manufactures custom cables.

While decrying the fact that few policy makers have a background in business, Mr Oates said it had been “the best budget since Nigel Lawson.”

He applauded new help for exporters – five percent of his business, and growing, is export to Europe and Scandinavia – and also welcomed the doubling of Capital Allowances from £250,000 to £500,000, which he called “a good old Tory policy”.

And independent financial advisor Amanda Barnett of Grosvenor Consultancy Ltd said the budget had been good news for the her sector, as so many people would be requiring the services of an IFA.

She did wonder, however, where the funding for the chancellor’s promise that every direct contributions saver would get “free impartial advice on how to get the most of their pension” would come from.

“I’m not working for free,” she remarked.

For a full Budget 2014 roundup, see our article Budget 2014 – The Business World Reacts

Who was Alan Turing?

Alan Turing was a British mathematician, logician, cryptanalyst, computer scientist and philosopher, who formalised the concepts of ‘algorithm’ and ‘computation’.

During World War Two, Turing worked at Bletchley Park, where he was instrumental in cracking the German Enigma Code.

But in 1952 he was prosecuted under for homosexuality, which was still illegal, and was chemically castrated.

The conviction meant he lost his security clearance and had to stop the code-cracking work that had proved vital to the Allies in World War Two. He committed suicide by cyanide in 1954.

In 2009, prime minister Gordon Brown apologies for the “the appalling way he was treated.” The Queen gave him a posthumous pardon on 24 December 2013.