Cambridge likely to share in 70m hand-out


E-Minister Patricia Hewitt has announced a three-part 70 million government investment in technology to keep the UK at the forefront of the high tech revolution.

Proposals include 20 million for pioneering work on intelligent products (such as those that operate via Cambridge Silicon Radio's Bluetooth chips); 30 million for transforming business practices using technology; and a further 20 million for a national computing grid for UK scientists.

Launching the package of measures, Ms Hewitt said: 'The internet as we know it today is only the start of the revolution in information communications technology.

'The UK is already one of the world leaders in mobile internet and digital TV. Now we are investing an additional 70 million to ensure that UK business and scientists can be in the lead for the next generation of electronic networks.'

Over the next four years the 20 million for intelligent products will fund a centre at which Britain's top researchers, manufacturers and marketing gurus will come together.

Their work will ensure that the UK takes a lead role in moving computer and communications technology from the desktop to the kitchen worktop.

Next wave technologies will bring computer power into everyday gadgets. For example, washing machines which read intelligent clothes labels before selecting a washing programme, internet fridges which order groceries direct from the supermarket, and home diagnostic devices which help patients communicate with GPs remotely.

The market for these thinking machines -- many of which will rely on technology developed in Cambridge -- could be worth up to $1 trillion a year by 2005.

Bids will be invited from universities across the UK to host the interdisciplinary centre, with industry expected to match the government's 20 million funding.

The programme will also provide 20 million for a new collaboration between universities, business and government to develop a high-speed national grid of super-computing power that will give UK scientists access to information and communications technology on a scale previously only available to the Pentagon.

The DTI says the human genome project, particle physics and environment sciences (all strong contenders on the Cambridge scene) are generating staggering amounts of data, but scientists can only exploit this data if they have a new generation of very high speed computing and communications networks that will enable them to share and analyse data across the globe.