Alan Turing Institute Starts Work
Written by Sue Gee   
Monday, 10 August 2015

The UK's new national institute for the data sciences has appointed Andrew Blake, Head of Microsoft Research UK, as the inaugural director of the Alan Turing Institute. The institute has also announced a partnership with GCHQ to work on next generation ideas and methods for the use of big data.

The Alan Turing Institute was announced in March 2014 with the aim of promote the development and use of advanced mathematics, computer science, algorithms and ‘Big Data’ – the collection, analysis and interpretation of immense volumes of data – for human benefit. 


In March 2015 the institute's founding partners were announced. They are the universities of Cambridge, Edinburgh, Oxford and Warwick. University College London and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). The institute is located at the British Library in London.

The latest announcement from the EPRSC indicates that the institute is now getting underway:

The Alan Turing Institute has marked its first few days of operations with the announcement of its new director, the confirmation of £10 million of research funding from Lloyd’s Register Foundation, a research partnership with GCHQ, a collaboration with Cray Inc. and EPSRC, and its first research activities.

The person appointed to head the institute is Andrew Blake, a Microsoft Distinguished Scientist as well as an Honorary Professor in Information Engineering at the University of Cambridge.



He joined Microsoft in 1999 as a senior researcher to found the Computer Vision group and since 2010 has been Laboratory Director of Microsoft Research, Cambridge. He will assume his new post in October and commented:.

“I am very excited to be chosen for this unique opportunity to lead The Alan Turing Institute. The vision of bringing together the mathematical and computer scientists from the country’s top universities to develop the new discipline of data science, through an independent institute with strategic links to commerce and industry, is very compelling. 

The institute has a societally important mission and ambitious research goals. We will go all out to achieve them.” 

There is an obvious synergy between the  new institute, named in honor of codebreaker, mathematician and computer pioneer Alan Turing and GCHQ which is the UK's national security agency. According to the EPSRC: 

Both institutions have a mission to inform policy, propagate best practice and catalyse the next generation of ideas and methods for the use of big data. They have agreed to cooperate on training and research in data-analytical methods that may be applied in open access and commercial environments.

Robert Hannigan, GCHQ's Director said:

"GCHQ is delighted to be a partner of The Alan Turing Institute and have the opportunity to help maintain Alan Turing's legacy for generations to come. Alan Turing spent much of his life working with data, both during and after the war, and it's a fitting tribute that his name is associated with an institute that will dedicate itself to becoming the world leader in the analysis and application of big data and algorithm research." 



EPSRC also announced support from supercomputer manufacturer Cray Inc. As part of this EPSRC's ARCHER supercomputer, based at the University of Edinburgh and currently the largest supercomputer for scientific research in the UK, will be enabled with advanced data analytics capabilities that will provide a scalable platform to enable the science community, commerce and industry to realise the value of big data for the UK economy. 

It looks as though there are exciting times ahead for the UK's data scientists.


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Last Updated ( Monday, 10 August 2015 )