Case study by BT

The UK’s ICT industry needs researchers who can collaborate confidently across multiple academic disciplines – and work seamlessly between academia and industry. That’s why BT, along with partners from across the ICT sector, launched the Tommy Flowers Institute in 2016.

The Institute aims to improve the links between academic research and commercial opportunities in the industry, driving research to produce new product innovations for consumers and business.

The Institute brings the ICT industry and UK academia together to develop the skills and knowledge of our future research leaders. BT are delighted to be supported by professors from the universities of; Cambridge, East Anglia, Essex, Imperial, Lancaster, Oxford, Southampton and Surrey, along with major technology companies, to launch the initiative. Based at Adastral Park in Suffolk and bigger than any one company or any one university, the Institute will be a source of well-rounded ICT research leaders with a thorough commercial and operational perspective to complement their technical excellence.

Through targeted lectures, conferences and workshops, the researchers embedded at the institute will be equipped to take on the complex challenges facing the ICT sector and help the UK to grow its world-leading knowledge economy. After all, the institute is named after computing pioneer Tommy Flowers who created Colossus, the world’s first electronic, programmable computer capable of breaking complex codes, and is credited with shortening the Second World War by many years. Flowers himself owes part of his legacy to a combination of great minds from diverse back grounds, demonstrating the far-reaching potential of collaboration. As such, the institute is witness to ICT industry partners engaging with UK academia on specific industrial and societal challenges, to produce both excellent research solutions and the excellent research leaders able to drive implementation.

“This institute will bridge the gap between industrial research and the fantastic talent that exists in the academic sector.” Dr Tim Whitley, BT MD Research & Innovation

The Institute includes the Innovation Martlesham cluster, a collaborative eco-system for high-tech companies whose global players include NPL, Cisco, Intel, Huawei, Ericsson and Nokia. All our industrysponsored postgraduates and their academic supervisors are invited to participate. The institute also convenes several major conferences each year, providing students with exposure to sector challenges with industrial practitioners at the leading-edge of operations, technology and innovation. Our focus is on the challenges that the technology is being used to address, and on what is needed from the researchers to meet those challenges.

The Tommy Flowers Institute supports both the UK Research Councils’ Research Innovate Grow ambition to ensure the UK remains the best place in the world to do research, innovate and grow business, and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council’s Accelerating Impact strategy to maximise academic excellence and impact through building wider and stronger research and training partnerships.

Published: 30 August, 2018


This article first appeared in the 2018 State of the Relationship report, commissioned by Research England and compiled and published by NCUB.