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Oscar Williams

News editor

Bletchley Park could become Institute of Digital Technology under £20m plans

Codebreakers may return to Bletchley Park in 2020 under ambitious plans to turn the home of World War Two cryptographers into an Institute of Digital Technology.

A consortium led by Milton Keynes College is seeking to transform the site’s derelict Block D into a centre for the teaching of technical qualifications and apprenticeships in a number of fields including cyber security.

The group, which includes Microsoft, KPMG and Bletchley Park Trust, is now bidding for £20m of government funding to redevelop the site where Alan Turing cracked the Enigma code during World War Two.

Julie Mills, CEO of Milton Keynes College, told NS Tech the institute would address the UK’s digital skills shortage and the lack of women working in technology by enrolling up to 1,000 students and adult learners a year.

“Our ambitions here are to widen participation and grow the cyber digital workforce, not just for the tech sector but for all business,” she said. “In this region, just 18 per cent of the tech workforce is female and we want to really address that.”

ISC Squared, an association for the cyber security industry, reported last year that more than two thirds of UK companies are unable to recruit the cyber security specialists they need.

Derrick McCourt, general manager of the customer success unit at Microsoft UK, said such skills are becoming increasingly vital to the economy: “Bletchley Park is synonymous with the security of this nation and so I cannot think of a more appropriate place to train the next generation of cybersecurity experts.”

The institute, the consortium says, could play a crucial role in supporting the government’s aim to turn Oxford, Milton Keynes and Cambridge into a world-leading “growth corridor”.

Mills added: “Bletchley Park was chosen immediately before the war to be the home of the Government Code and Cipher School, in part because it was midway between the two great university cities and in easy reach of London. Today those three key centres are even closer.”

A report published by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy in November indicated that the output of the region could increase by £163bn by 2050 if investments are made in infrastructure, housing and business. Mills said work on the site could start as soon as January 2019 if the consortium wins funding from the government Institutes of Technology fund. The work would take around 18 months.

Sir John Dermot Turing, nephew of Turing and a member of the board of the Bletchley Park Trust, said it’s “absolutely fitting that Block D should be brought back to life for a purpose which is both educational and meeting a technology-related need of such significance to the nation”. He added: “It would be a marvellous addition to Alan Turing’s legacy if the proposed Institute of Digital Technology were to open here.”