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tfi-launchBT has launched the Tommy Flowers Institute to develop the future research leaders in academia and industry, in partnership with organisations across our ICT sector.

The Launch took place on 29 September 2016, at Adastral Park. Over 80 attendees from 17 Universities; 1 Vice Chancellor; 2 Pro-Vice Chancellors; 18 Professors; 7 companies; EPSRC; National physical Laboratory; Institution of Engineering and Technology; New Anglia LEP, and Suffolk County Council, joined together in a truly memorable event.

Tim Whitley, MD Research & Innovation and MD of Adastral Park opened the launch, saying “It’s appropriate that the institute is named after Tommy Flowers. He brought together the best of industry and academia to create the world’s first electronic programmable computer. “

“This institute will bridge the gap between industrial research and the fantastic talent that exists in the academic sector.”

Please find more information about the launch event and future plans below:

The Tommy Flowers Institute Brochure

Tommy Flowers Institute Communications Brief

Slides of the launch event

Launch event attendees list

BT News Press Release


fraserStrategic industry challenges rarely focus on a single research discipline. To deliver world-class ICT research in the future requires world-class researchers who can collaborate confidently across academic disciplines and between industry and academia.

The Tommy Flowers Institute brings together the UK’s ICT industry and UK academia to develop research leaders for the grand challenges facing the ICT sector in the UK, ensuring that the UK can sustain a world-leading knowledge economy.

Delivering world-class ICT research in the future will require a new breed of researcher.

We need researchers who can collaborate confidently across multiple academic disciplines – and work seamlessly between academia and industry.

That’s why we in BT, along with our partners from across the ICT sector, have launched the Tommy Flowers Institute.  The Institute brings the ICT industry and UK academia together to produce the research leaders of the future.

These researchers will be equipped to take on the complex challenges facing the ICT sector and help our nation to enrich its world-leading knowledge economy.

The Tommy Flowers Institute supports the RCUK (Research Councils UK) ‘Research Innovate Grow’ ambition to make sure the UK remains the best place on the planet to do research, innovate and grow business.

It also supports the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC’s) ‘accelerating impact’ strategy – which is designed to maximise both academic excellence and impact through building wider and stronger research and training partnerships.

And so any organisation that seeks to make the most from collaborative technological research or has an enthusiasm to generate new research challenges need look no further than the Tommy Flowers Institute.

Fraser Burton

BT’s Head of University Partnerships

The Tommy Flowers Institute will develop ICT doctoral and post-doctoral researchers’ skills to be future research leaders


The Tommy Flowers Institute will develop ICT doctoral and post-doctoral researchers’ skills to be future research leaders, by providing industrial exposure through conferences, internships and mentoring opportunities.

BenefitsTommy Bust

Post-Graduate and Post-Doctoral research associates will be the primary beneficiaries of the Tommy Flowers Institute. Benefits include exposure to strategic industry challenges and experience from multiple organisations; collaboration with a limited and prestigious group of ICT industry leaders; access to a programme of real-world lectures and opportunities to build networks with industry players.

Benefits for universities and academic supervisors include enhanced networking opportunities across the ICT sector; access to a set of real-world problems identified by major industry players and government agencies and the opportunity to attend, present and help steer planned “Grand Challenge” conferences.

Benefits for member companies and other stakeholders include access to bright minds to work on projects and real-world problems; access to future talent pool for recruitment and visibility of academic work and collaboration opportunities.


Conferences will cover grand challenges in industry. Our current plans for 2017 include:

  • The Future Organisation: How to build agility and customer focus
  • The Converged Network Experience: How to deliver user connectivity (With attendance from BT Innovation 2017)
  • Cyber-security: How to empower and protect users

There will also be additional networking opportunities, mentoring, placements, internships throughout the year to support researchers

We will constantly revisit the Challenges as more of the ICT industry joins, to ensure that we are focussing on the real issues facing the industry and that we are doing our best to support new researchers’ skills.


Tommy Pic 2Tommy Flowers was born to a working class family in Poplar in London’s East End in 1905. He was mathematically gifted, gained a scholarship from a technical college and then acquired a 4 year internship in mechanical engineering at the Royal Arsenal in Woolwich. He gained a degree in electrical engineering at the University of London.

Tommy Flowers became involved in codebreaking activities at Bletchley Park in 1941 and was involved in the developments surrounding the mechanical machine Alan Turing had created to crack the Engima codes. Tommy Flowers then worked on the more complex Lorenz S740/2 code – a superior and more secure cipher that the German High Command had begun using in 1941.

ColossusTommy Pic 3

In March 1943, Tommy Flowers started planning a new code breaking machine, which would be known as Colossus. With the support of Gordon Radley, the GPO and a team of around 15 GPO engineers, they began building the machine at Dollis Hill. The machine was moved to Bletchley Park in January 1944 and carried out its first job on 5 February 1944. The machine reduced the time it took to break the Lorenz code from weeks to hours.  Bletchley Park ran two Colossus machines and these machines had a monumental impact on the success of the D-Day landings. The codes intercepted and decoded by Colossus were able to inform the allies where to place troops. Hitler had not expected an invasion in Normandy and Colossus essentially confirmed the go ahead for D-Day. It was once said that Colossus was responsible for shortening the war by two years. This saved not just hundreds, but possibly tens of thousands of lives.

The Legacy

After the war, the official secrets act meant formal recognition was limited. Tommy Flowers received an MBE for his wartime work and a modest £1,000. As the Official Secrets Act has started to relax, the truth about Colossus and the work of Tommy Flowers has begun to emerge and people are beginning to recognise him as the brilliant wartime hero and inventor that he was.

On 12 December 2013, to celebrate 70 years since the invention of Colossus and to recognise Tommy Flower’s work, a bust of Tommy Flowers was revealed at Adastral Park.

Read in more depth the life and achievements of Tommy Flowers as well as how Tommy Flowers was a Champion of purposeful innovation.

Tommy Flowers Institute Flyer

Video of the Tommy Flowers celebration event at Adastral Park 2013

Tommy Flowers – Champion of purposeful innovation

The Life and Achievements of Tommy Flowers


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Tommy Flowers Institute is hosted at:

BT Adastral Park
Martlesham Heath

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