Advancing computing

Supplementary content information

The sponsors of the UK ICT Pioneers Competition (BCS, HP, EPSRC, ARM, Imagination Technologies and IET) present some background messages on the importance of computing and ICT.

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Martin Sadler - Lab Director, HP Labs [MS]

Over the next twenty years we are going to see some amazing transformations, disruptive transformations, with technology, so everything we've seen in the past twenty years - the personal computer, online shopping, social networking - will be nothing compared to the revolution that's ahead of us.

Mike Short - President of IET (2011/2012) [MSh]

ICT research is enabling healthcare move into a different world, supporting new transport and ticketing systems and in particular helping us to think about smart energy, smart grids and smarter homes in the future.

Alan Bundy - Vice President of BCS, the Chartered Institute for IT [AB]

ICT influences just all disciplines and ones that we wouldn't have anticipated it would influence; things like economics, music, as well as say physics or biology or geology.

[MSh]

In telecommunications we couldn't work without ICT and some of the capabilities that have developed over the last thirty years and now we see over 5.5 billion customers using mobiles globally.

Dave Delpy - Chief Executive, EPSRC [DD]

If you look at the output of the UK economy, people talk about service industries and about manufacturing. Every single element of that requires the use of information and communication technologies, ICT, and so the sort of career that one can have in ICT spans every aspect of society and of our industry and our manufacturing future.

[AB]

Computational thinking is influencing all areas of life; intellectual life and practical life. One of philosophy's long outstanding problems has been the mind-body problem; how it is that the mind can influence the brain and the brain the mind. Computational ideas have provided a metaphor for this that the mind corresponds to software and the brain to the hardware that it runs on.

Take something like biology; what is DNA? Well, it's a kind of computer program. It has instructions, which when run, produce proteins.

[DD]

In the future, EPSRC is moving from being a passive funder of research to being a sponsor of research. It means that we want the internationally excellent research that we fund to tackle really important societal problems and things that are essential to the health of the UK; research based, manufacturing based and society. And of course that does require putting together basic science, engineering, end users and that's what ICT does.

[MS]

One of the things we've found over the past few years is that multidisciplinary teams work so much better at being on top of what is possible, understanding what you can do with it and actually just innovating. A lot of the interesting innovations are when you put people together from very different backgrounds.

So we are facing an information explosion. One of the things that will help people in how they consume all this vast amount of information is next generation display technology. This stuff is going to be plastic and we are going to wallpaper our homes with it. To generate the technology, to generate the kind of screens, at the price point that people can afford, requires a lot of material science, a lot of physics and a lot of chemistry, but to deal with how do we get that vast amount of information onto those screens in the right kind of way, requires skills from computer science and then for how individuals are actually going to interact with this screens, through gestures, by pointing, by doing those kind of movements that people are familiar with from their smart phones, requires people who actually come from psychology backgrounds. So we have this complete spread, from people who have very low level fundamental science backgrounds, right the way up through to the social sciences and we need to bring all of that together to really harness what next generation technology is going to be able to do for us.

Tony King-Smith - Imagination Technologies Ltd [TK]

Imagination does all sorts of technology, we are best known probably for our graphics acceleration technology that's found in hundreds of millions of mobile phones and tablets. Research for Imagination is the life blood of our company; it has advanced technology in our ability to turn the most advanced concepts into commercial technology that can be deployed in medium to high volume. That is what makes Imagination the successful company that we are today.

We know what we are looking for. Our business is looking at least five to ten years ahead of the technology you are seeing in products today and our development plans reflect that. A lot of the technology we are in active development with now is unlikely to reach production for the next three to five years, at least, so therefore we have very long-term horizons. That also means as we are studying that technology, we are studying the world press, the academic press, the commercial press and looking for trends which are going to stimulate areas where we see there are fundamental gaps in technology and those are the ones we strive for.

[MSh]

One of the areas that I was researching in the early 90's was why some of the SMS activities were not taking off, simple texting, and we realised that texting within a network was not sufficient, so we thought we'd do some experimentation and started to look at texting across networks; so from what was O2 in those days across to Vodafone and vice versa. That experimental research led to a texting boom, the likes of which we'd never seen before; so by 1999 there was something like one billion texts messages sent in the UK and by 2009 it went over 100 billion.

Ian Phillips - Principal Staff Engineering, ARM Ltd [IP]

Inside these little boxes are actually a hierarchy of expertise; a hierarchy of design, a hierarchy of technology, a hierarchy of manufacturing, so practically none of them today are designed and manufactured in a single place. So, we can't ever own the entire, what's known as, lifecycle for these products in the UK. But what we can only hope for is to maintain a proportion of the skills, the technology and the abilities that are going to occur inside these devices in the future. So, we have to take the expertise that we've got, the special expertise that we have, and we have to develop it as far as possible and then we have to make it available to the international market. But don't forget that the UK companies are also looking across at the international market for their solutions. If we don't have the quality of research and we don't have the quality of researchers in this ICT domain we will fall back as a nation and this will not be a good thing to do.

[TK]

We have a tremendous history of innovation. What we are now showing is that intellectual property companies now fit very well into where industry is headed over the next few decades and as such those companies rely on advanced research into end-commercialising it. I think it's never been a more exciting time for the UK, but we need that body of researchers and we need them in this country, so that they are close to the companies that can exploit them.

[DD]

We need excellent ICT researchers, which we have, but we also need ones who can communicate exactly what it is that ICT is contributing.

[AB]

Without a good understanding of the economic and the social backgrounds you can't design products that are going to be successful.

[MSh]

ICT, for me, is the most exciting career that anybody can have because it touches every avenue in society; it touches anything you may wish to do, whether it's through education and research, whether it's through implementation, whether it's through delivering new services to anybody in society. It's also a global career, it's not just something which is unique to the UK, but growing those skills in the UK would help you both within the UK and internationally.

[MS]

HP Labs is in the UK because this is a great place to work with universities. We have a wonderful opportunity here with industry and academia coming together to solve some of these big challenges and the group of individuals that are at the focal point of that are our PhD students. That's the engine room for growth for this country for the next ten to 20 years and that's the group we need to continue to invest in.