An initial target of six to eight centres across the UK seems to be sensible, with a view to widening the network of centres in the future.
The sources of funding for each centre need to be carefully balanced. TICs should follow the ‘one third, one third, one third’ model used by the equivalent centres in Germany, the Fraunhofer Institutes, which includes:
- one third public funding from government
- one third competitive public-private sector funding i.e. UK or EU funding competitions
- one third from private sector contracts from businesses
The Committee recommends 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.
Andrew Miller MP, Chair of the Committee, 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 recommends that TICs build on these facilities and the expertise contained within them.
In identifying which existing centres in the UK will become TICs, the primary objective must be the quality of the science and the economic benefit to the UK. The Committee is particularly attracted to the 'hub and spoke' model, as a way of spreading the economic benefit of TICs throughout the country.
The possible effects of the TICs initiatives on the wider funding activities of the Technology Strategy Board is a concern.
Andrew Miller said:
"There is an imbalance in public funding between research and innovation. 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."
The Committee recommends that the network of TICs be called 'Turing Centres', after the founder of modern computer science, Alan Turing.
Andrew Miller 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'."
Technology and Information Centres
In the 2010 Spending Review the Government announced it would provide £200 million support for an elite network of research and development intensive Technology and Innovation Centres (TICs).
Alan 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 is also known for his work as a cryptographer at Bletchley Park during the Second World War.
In 1952, Alan 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 made an official public apology about the way in which Turing was treated.
Image: Press Association