Budget 2014: Data institute unveiled but digital largely overlooked

Chancellor George Osborne today announced the creation of a national institute for big data, set to be named after computer pioneer and mathematician Alan Turing.

In his 2014 Budget statement, Osborne pledged £42 million over five years for the new Alan Turing Institute.

He said that it would undertake new research in methods of collecting, organising and analysing large sets of data.

Documents released alongside the Budget statement said: “Big Data analysis can allow businesses to enhance their manufacturing processes, target their marketing better, and provide more efficient services.”

A tender to run the institute will be released later this year, and a spokesperson for the Treasury said that it could either be housed in a new facility or at an existing university.

Funding will be provided by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills with its chief reporting to science minister David Willetts.

During World War II, Turing worked at the Government Code and Cipher School at Bletchley Park – the forerunner of GCHQ – devising the techniques which cracked the German Enigma code.

He killed himself in 1954, two years after being convicted of homosexual acts – illegal at the time.

Last year he was granted a Royal Pardon.

Duncan Higgins, marketing director at Virgin Media Business, said he was concerned at the lack of other references to digital technology in today’ Budget announcement.

He said: “To use Mr Osborne’s words, if we want to “outsmart the rest of the world”, we need to be more switched on to the power of digital.

“And given that Britain’s digital economy will be 10% of GDP by 2016, it’s surprising that there was just one mention of the word “technology” and no mention at all of “digital” in the Chancellor’s Budget.”

Colin Marrs

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