Alan Pratt

Chief Security, Science and Innovation Officer at Home Office

Chief Security, Science and Innovation Officer, Home Office
Continuing Policy Fellow, Centre for Science and Policy

"I spent an exceptionally informative, stimulating and exhausting week in Cambridge, meeting with some of the best and most influential thinkers in a wide range of disciplines across the University, and covering three main themes: what is going on in Cambridge which is of direct relevance to the Home Office’s objectives in crime, policing and security, or which provides another lens through which to look at the issues; in promoting innovation, how can a good idea be differentiated from a poor one, and how can good ideas be taken through into practice; and the relationship between academia, govenment and industry. I came away with fresh insights into all of these, and with a valuable network of top academics to draw on in the future." (May 2011)

Alan Pratt made his initial visit as a Policy Fellow in May 2011 when he was Director of Science, Engineering and Technology at the Home Office. His role centred around protecting the public using science and technology, through providing impartial scientific and technical advice to government and the police, developing new capabilities with industry and academia, and providing direct technical support to frontline operations. He is also responsible for the regulation of forensic science and animal scientific procedures, and for the science and engineering profession with the Home Office.

Alan is a member of the Home Office Science Advisory Committee (HOSAC), whose function is to provide the Permanent Secretary with independent advice on improving the quality of the science and research that informs strategic delivery and policy development. On this Committee he works alongside (among others) the Chief Scientific Adviser, the Director of Social Science and Chief Economist, and Professor Chris Lowe of the Institute of Biotechnology, University of Cambridge (chair of the chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear subcommittee).

Alan is an internationally recognised expert in surveillance technology with a broad background in applied science. Having studied physics at Imperial College (1985-88), Alan joined the Home Office to develop world leading surveillance technology before becoming Deputy Director and Chief Scientist, then Director of the Home Office Scientific Development Branch (HOSDB) in 2004, and then Director of Science, Engineering and Technology in 2009. He is a Fellow and recent Vice-President of the Institute of Physics and a Chartered Physicist, and holds an MBA from the Open University (2006).

In his Policy Fellowship, Alan is interested in pursuing discussions on the following:

  • Developments in science and technology that may have significant impact on crime, policing, security (broadly defined, to include cyber security, borders, infrastructure, etc.) or civil liberties, including transformative technologies, behaviour recognition, security in crowded places
  • The nature of innovation in complex devolved organisations
  • New thinking in models for collaborative working across organisations
  • "Delivery models" for science and technology development - how research and theory is translated into practice, and how can the valuable ideas be distinguished early on from the red herrings
  • "Information engineering" - how can we learn more from what we already "know"?
  • The "network model" - how do networks of people work to deliver value?
  • Risk, resilience and the precautionary principle
  • Trust, including public trust in science and government.

Finally, Alan is also interested in understanding better how the University works.