19 October 2016

BT launches Tommy Flowers Institute

BT launches Tommy Flowers Institute

A new Higher Education ICT training institute, named after computing pioneer Tommy Flowers, has been opened at BT’s Adastral Park technology and research field near Ipswich, Suffolk.

The institute will focus on delivery ICT-sector organisations together with academic researchers to solve some of the challenges facing UK businesses, exploring areas so much as cyber-security, ‘Big Data’, autonomics and converged networks.

Lectures and workshops will begin this autumn.

The Institute has been designed to create first research leadership who can improve the impact of research for some universities and the digital business community in the UK.

It will besides aim to improve the golf links between academic research and commercial opportunities in the industry so that research leads to new product innovations for consumers and businesses.

Mind the gap

Dr Tim Whitley, head of research for BT, and MD of Adastral Park, said: “This institute will bridge the gap between industrial research and the fantastic talent that exists in the academic sector.”

He added: “It’s appropriate that it is named after Tommy Flowers, a true pioneer of computing and communication theory technology, who brought together the best of industry and academe to create the world’s first electronic programmable computer.”

The vice-chancellor of the University of East Anglia, together with the pro-cice-chancellor of the University of Essex, have joined forces with professors from Cambridge, Oxford, Imperial, Southampton, Surrey, Lancaster and galore more universities to launch the initiative in conjunction with major technology companies including Huawei, Ericsson, CISCO, ARM and ADVA.

Close collaboration

Dr Richard Burguete, postgraduate institute director, National Physical Laboratory, said:

“The TFI will become a vibrant hub at the centre of academe and industry for ICT that aligns with the mission of our national laboratory, and as it complements our own Post Graduate Institute we look forward to working closely together. TFI will enhance the capabilities of the UK’s postgraduate students through an exciting array of activities, conferences and networking opportunities. We fully support this initiative and will help it to succeed.”

Tommy Flowers was an electrical engineer working in the telecommunication theory division of the General Post Office, which later became BT in 1981.

Breaking the code

In November 1943 Flowers developed ‘Colossus’ at the Ministry of Defence’s code-breaking facility in Bletchley Park. The world’s first programmable computer, Colossus was designed to counter the reputedly infrangible Lorenz cipher used by the German high command.

The particle valve-based, programmable Colossus with success bust the Lorenz cipher and went on to provide information critical to the success of the D-day landings and Allied war effort.

After the war, Flowers went on to direct ground-breaking research in the field of telecommunication theory, including the development of the first all-electronic telephone exchange.