Apply for access to high performance computing facilities - EPSRC

EPSRC-funded high performance computing (HPC) services provide access to a range of specialised capabilities which cannot be provided at local university level.

Each year, EPSRC opens applications for researchers to apply for access to high performance computers. This provides researchers with an open and flexible route to computational support for projects within EPSRC’s remit.

A wide variety of activities can be supported. We encourage applications that:

  • involve early career researchers
  • provide an opportunity to onboard and train new users
  • significantly push the boundaries in computational research using HPC in your field.

You must:

  • be based at a UK organisation eligible for funding. Additional individual eligibility requirements apply
  • demonstrate substantial HPC expertise within your team in order to be considered.

Computing services you can apply for access to are:

  • ARCHER2
  • most of the EPSRC-funded Tier-2 HPC services, including:
    • Isambard
    • Kelvin-2
    • JADE
    • Cirrus
    • NICE
    • CSD3
    • Baskerville
    • Sulis.

There is no funding granted to successful applicants. This application process is purely for compute resource.

There is no upper limit to the amount of resource you can apply for, but it must be justified and deemed appropriate to the objectives of your project.

Key dates

The following key dates apply to 2022 applications:

  • opening date for applications: 4 July 2022 at 10:00 UK time
  • technical assessment submission deadline: 20 September 2022 at 16:00 UK time
  • closing date for applications: 18 October 2022 at 16:00 UK time
  • panel meeting: week commencing 28 November 2022
  • expected project start dates: week commencing 12 December 2022.

Who can apply

You must be based at a UK institution eligible for funding. This includes:

  • UK higher education institutions
  • research council institutes
  • UK Research and Innovation (UKRI)-approved independent research organisations
  • eligible public sector research establishments
  • NHS bodies with research capacity.

Read the guidance on institutional eligibility.

Individual eligibility

You can apply if you are a resident in the UK and meet at least one of the following:

  • are employed at the submitting research organisation at a level equivalent to lecturer or above
  • hold a fixed-term contract that extends beyond the duration of the proposed project, and the host research organisation is prepared to give you all the support normal for a permanent employee
  • hold an EPSRC, Royal Society or Royal Academy of Engineering fellowship aimed at later career stages
  • hold fellowships under other schemes (please contact EPSRC to check eligibility, which is considered on a case-by-case basis).

Research technical professionals, including research software engineers, are considered as academic employees and are eligible to be a principal or co-investigator under the same terms as traditional researchers.

Check if you’re eligible for funding.

If you are a student looking to access the high performance computing (HPC) resources through this application route, you must seek an eligible principal investigator to apply on your behalf. The principal investigator:

  • must oversee the preparation of the proposal
  • will be responsible for how any time awarded is used.

Limitations

Holders of postdoctoral-level fellowships are not eligible to apply.

You can only be an investigator (principal investigator or co-investigator) on a maximum of one proposal to each service.

Each proposal you are included for as an investigator must be a unique and distinct project.

What we're looking for

By providing researchers with access to high performance computing (HPC), we are looking to:

  • underpin high quality research, of which the majority is within EPSRC’s remit
  • provide an open route to computational capacity for all researchers in our remit to expand the user base for HPC, particularly for those who either:
    • have limited access through other routes
    • are new to HPC, to expand the user base for HPC
  • support a portfolio of projects across the HPC ecosystem, including but not limited to:
    • computational projects which may not warrant a full grant application
    • computational projects linking consecutive grant applications or aiding the preparation of a full grant or fellowship application
    • extended feasibility or proof of concept studies (at a larger scale than is possible in pump priming projects)
    • large amounts of compute for ambitious, computationally intensive simulations and calculations
    • collaborations with industrial and international partners
  • increase the development of computational science skills, such as allowing students to work jointly with principal investigators to achieve the aims of the proposed research, leading to improved software and coding skills, and career paths.

Your proposal should align with at least one of these aims.

Responsible innovation

You are expected to work within the EPSRC framework for responsible innovation.

International collaboration

If you plan to include international collaborators in your proposal, you should visit Trusted Research for guidance on getting the most out of international collaboration whilst protecting intellectual property, sensitive research and personal information.

What you can apply for

You can only apply for compute resource. You must be able to demonstrate substantial high performance computing (HPC) expertise within your team to be considered.

The services available are:

  • ARCHER2, the Tier-1 national supercomputer
  • most of the EPSRC-funded Tier-2 HPC services, including:
    • Isambard
    • Kelvin-2
    • JADE
    • Cirrus
    • NICE
    • CSD3
    • Baskerville
    • Sulis.

You cannot apply for EPSRC’s final Tier-2 service, the Materials and Molecular Modelling Hub (MMM Hub), through this process. Further details on accessing MMM Hub can be found in the service specification documentation.

You should only apply for the amount of compute time that you require to meet your proposal objectives. Time must be justified in your proposal.

Indicative levels of the computational resource available at each service, as well as service-specific restrictions on projects, can be found in the supporting documentation. Precise levels are subject to variations in the current usage of the services.

We recommend that you contact the service you are applying to as soon as possible, to:

  • discuss whether the level of resource you intend to request is realistic and reasonable
  • refine your requirements whilst completing your technical assessment.

EPSRC reserves the right to adjust the overall level of computational resource available and delay project start dates where circumstances require it.

Services will expect users to either use existing software on the system or to build their own software and will provide support where possible.

EPSRC approach to equipment funding.

What we will not support

There are some circumstances for which you should not apply through this route, which are as follows.

ARCHER2 time for high end computing (HEC) consortia projects

Projects in the remit of the high end computing consortia cannot apply for ARCHER2 time through this route. Instead, you should apply through the relevant consortium.

Find out about the different scientific consortia.

UK Car-Parrinello Consortium (UKCP) and Materials Chemistry Consortium (MCC) remit projects

Projects in the remit of either the UK Car-Parrinello Consortium (UKCP) or the Materials Chemistry Consortium (MCC) are expected to be accommodated through their allocations on the Materials and Molecular Modelling Hub (MMM Hub), unless the service is not technically appropriate for the work.

Where the MMM Hub service is not technically appropriate for your proposed work, you may use this application process to apply for access to a suitable Tier-2 service.

You should ask the relevant consortia to confirm that this is the case directly and in writing with EPSRC.

Each service may have additional requirements for projects. Details of these can be found in the supporting documentation. You should check these requirements before preparing your application.

Restrictions

If you are part of an HEC consortium or have institutional access to a Tier-2 service, we strongly recommend that you contact the consortium or service before applying to ensure that this application route is the correct way for you to request compute time.

If you already have access to a service via a consortium or institution, you will need to explain in your application why this route is the most suitable one for you.

To ensure that funding is not awarded to an ineligible project, you will be required to inform EPSRC in your application whether you are a member of an HEC consortium. The chair of said consortium will be informed of details of your application if it is successful.

EPSRC retains the right to remove allocations (on any EPSRC-funded service) from successful applicants if it is established that these exclusions are being breached post award.

How to apply

Submitting your application

You must submit your application using the short web form on the research councils SmartSurvey system and include the mandatory documents as stated under the ‘attachments’ heading in this information.

Start your application (SmartSurvey).

There are two deadlines relevant to this opportunity.

Technical assessment deadline

To enable services to process and approve your technical assessment, you must submit it to the relevant service by 20 September 2022 at 16:00.

Application closing date

You must complete and submit your application, including any mandatory attachments, by 18 October 2022 at 16:00.

You will not be able to apply after this time.

Attachments

You must include the following mandatory documents as separate PDF attachments:

  • completed and approved technical assessment form for the service you are applying to access
  • completed application form
  • one-page diagrammatic work plan.

You should refer to the service specification document to help you decide which service to apply to. This document, along with the technical assessment and application forms, can be downloaded from the access to high performance computing application documents.

You may wish to include the following optional attachments:

  • letters of support
  • a cover letter. This will be seen only by EPSRC and is not sent to peer review.

No other documentation is allowed. Only information contained in the application form, technical assessment and diagrammatic work plan will be considered by the panel.

All documents should be completed in single-spaced Arial 11 font or similar-sized sans serif typeface and uploaded as a PDF.

For advice on writing proposals, see our information on what to include in proposals.

When drafting your document attachments, keep in mind:

  • the assessment criteria used by the panel. This can be found in the ‘how we will assess your application’ section
  • the level of expertise of the review panel. The panel will draw upon a broad cross-section of high performance computing (HPC) users from disciplines within engineering and the physical sciences. We cannot guarantee that there will be an expert for every application area. Your case for support must be easy for an audience with general scientific knowledge to understand.

Technical assessment

All proposals must be accompanied by a technical assessment completed by both the applicant (or applicants) and a representative of the service they wish to access. We will not accept proposals that reuse previous technical assessments without the explicit consent of the service.

This step ensures that the resource request is appropriate and that all technical requirements have been considered prior to submission. The technical assessment forms part of the assessment process.

Submitting your technical assessment for approval

You should:

The subject header of your submission email must state that this is an ‘access to HPC submission’.

You must submit your technical assessment to the service by 20 September 2022 at 16:00. Late submissions may be rejected.

We recommended that you encrypt the email request for a technical assessment when it is sent to the appropriate service.

Feedback from service technical reviewers

You will receive comments made by technical reviewers on your technical assessment form. You should respond to these by amending the technical aspects of your form. The technical reviewer may recommend applying to a more appropriate service at this stage.

The service will normally return the technical assessment (either approved or with requests for amendments) promptly, dependent upon the service and the level of demand at the time of submission.

Once the technical reviewer at the service is satisfied that their comments have been addressed, they will approve your technical assessment, and return your form by email with sections one and two completed as required for the full application stage.

EPSRC and the services cannot be held responsible for applications that miss the final deadline if the applicant has not met the deadline specified above for submission of the technical assessment.

You should make every effort to submit your assessment in advance of the deadline to help service staff to manage the volume of requests.

Application form

You should download and complete the application form from the access to high performance computing application documents.

Your application should consist of the following sections.

Description of the proposed research and its context

This must be no more than two sides of A4.

You should briefly list the main objectives of the proposed research. Explain how access to your chosen service will help you to meet these objectives.

Describe your proposed computational research project:

  • detailing the scientific and wider context
  • explaining what you are aiming to achieve with the computational resource and how the project will advance the current context
  • highlighting the novelty and timeliness of the work
  • explaining how the project will deliver or enable high-quality scientific research.

Identify any potential applications of the proposed work. Include how it would contribute to computational science, for example through:

  • generating new codes
  • development of existing codes
  • increased computational efficiency
  • opening up HPC for new scientific areas and industrial sectors.

Explain why the service applied for is the most appropriate resource for this work.

Importance

This must be no more than one side of A4.

Explain why this proposal warrants support in terms of the importance to the UK.

This could include, but is not limited to:

  • economic or industrial impacts
  • advancing world-leading research activities
  • identifying how the proposed research contributes to national and EPSRC priority areas.
Expertise and track record of the team

This must be no more than one side of A4.

Provide details of your track record in:

  • computational science and engineering
  • porting, developing and using codes
  • the use of relevant HPC facilities.

Highlight any previous publications or other scientific outputs arising from HPC work related to this application. If you are new to HPC, explain how you plan to involve partners and use service support to ensure there is sufficient computational expertise to achieve the stated objectives.

Include any other information you think is relevant to demonstrate your suitability to undertake this work.

Resource management

This must be no more than two sides of A4.

State the requested number of compute units needed throughout the project, as approved by the technical assessment.

Explain how you plan to use and manage the allocated computational resources. It is imperative that you only request an allocation you can realistically use in the allocation period. This should take into account:

  • queuing times
  • potential issues with newly ported codes
  • scheduled maintenance periods
  • the time needed to interpret intermediate results.

Any compute units which have not been used by the end of the period will be lost.

The total number of compute units allocated through this process is limited. You need to demonstrate that your codes can make optimal use of this resource, for example by providing detailed, relevant benchmarking and scaling data. The panel can recommend a reduction in units or time awarded if the original request is not fully justified.

You will need to describe the staff resources available and how they will be used to complete the project. It is important that you:

  • start the project promptly
  • use the resource efficiently
  • finish within the allocation period.

State details of any additional financial or technical support for this or related research projects relevant to this application. As this proposal is for computing resources only, you should give details of how any other necessary resources for the project (for example, staff time) will be made available.

If the work has novel elements that could be considered high-risk, please indicate how the risks will be managed.

Work plan

This must be no more than one side of A4.

The diagrammatic work plan should justify the requested amount of time and use of the compute units.

Letters of support

These are optional.

Partner letters of support

These are for partners (academic or industrial) who are integral to the bid and are making cash or in-kind contributions. Letters of support must be on headed paper and be signed and dated within six months of the proposal submission date. There is no limit on the number of letters of support that can be included in an application.

Partner letters of support are mandatory if you have included a project partner in your application.

General letters of support

You can use this to evidence claims that your bid has support from certain groups or communities that may not be contributing to the proposal directly.

You can include a maximum of three such letters of support.

Cover letter

This is optional and there is no page limit.

You can use the proposal cover letter to express any other information that you feel is relevant to your application or to highlight anything that has been discussed and agreed with EPSRC staff beforehand. This may include:

  • maternity leave requirements
  • a declaration of interest
  • additional information about eligibility to apply that would not be appropriately shared in the track record
  • conflict of interest information for EPSRC to consider in reviewer or panel participant selection
  • that the application is an invited resubmission.

This letter will only be seen by EPSRC and will not be sent to peer review. It will not be shared with the service unless you have specifically requested this. If the letter contains sensitive information, you should state clearly whether the information is confidential.

We must receive your completed application by 18 October 2022 at 16:00.

Ethical information

EPSRC will not fund a project if it believes that there are ethical concerns that have been overlooked or not appropriately accounted for.

How we will assess your application

Assessment process

Technical reviewers at the relevant service will review the technical assessment to ensure that:

  • the level on resources requested has been properly scoped
  • all technical requirements have been met.

EPSRC will host a triage meeting to consider whether proposals should be moved between services prior to the panel and:

  • coordinate resource allocation across HPC centres in the UK
  • allow the transfer of applications which are more appropriate to another system.

The triaging meeting includes representatives from:

  • each Tier-2 service (the Director and panel coordinators)
  • the ARCHER2 service provider (from the computer science and engineering team)
  • EPSRC.

All proposals will be shared with this triaging group.

The triaging meeting will determine whether a proposal is moved based on:

  • the overall demand on each service from the applicants
  • the available capacity from the service over the allocation period
  • which service is most technically suitable for the proposed work.

Proposals which a service deems more suited to a different HPC machine may be awarded time with another service. If your proposal is affected, you will be informed at this stage.

Resource allocation panel (RAP)

At each service’s RAP meeting, the panel will rank the submitted proposals in priority order for allocation. All proposals will be considered equally against the assessment criteria, including those that originally submitted to a different service.

The panel can recommend a resubmission of a proposal if appropriate. The RAPs can also recommend a reduction in units or time awarded if the original request is not fully justified.

Each service will then decide on the total number of compute units and time to be awarded. They can also identify any proposals they believe are fundable, but for which there are not sufficient resources.

HPC triaging post-panel meeting

Following the RAPs at each service, there will be a second triaging meeting where each service will inform EPSRC of the decisions of their panel. The meeting will also consider the proposals which were considered fundable at each service, but for which there was not sufficient computational resource. These proposals will be moved to another service capable of hosting the work if there is additional capacity.

The services aim to notify applicants of their outcomes within 10 working days of the HPC triaging post-panel meeting. Successful applicants should then email the service contact detailed in the service specification document to confirm the start date of their project.

In the event of this funding opportunity being substantially oversubscribed as to be unmanageable, EPSRC reserves the right to modify the assessment process.

Assessment criteria

The assessment criteria used by the panel to rank proposals are as follows.

Quality (primary)

The degree to which research excellence is achieved within the proposal itself, or enabled through the proposed computational work. In particular, the:

  • novelty, relationship to the context, timeliness and relevance to identified stakeholders
  • ambition, adventure, transformative aspects or potential outcomes
  • suitability of the proposed methodology and the appropriateness of the approach to achieving impact.

Resource appropriateness and management (secondary)

The appropriateness of the computational resource requested for the proposed work and the plans for its utilisation, including whether:

  • the computational work could not be better conducted on another available service, such as local university resources
  • the requested computational resources have been fully justified with evidence that the resources will be used efficiently
  • the work plan is appropriate and achievable, demonstrating that there is sufficient staff time dedicated to the project
  • all of the potential risks have been considered and are appropriately mitigated.

Importance (secondary)

The degree to which the research, or research enabled through the proposal,
contributes to or helps:

  • maintain the health of other disciplines
  • to address key UK societal challenges
  • future UK economic success
  • development of emerging industries
  • complement other UK research funded in the area, including any relationship to the EPSRC portfolio.

Applicant and partnerships (secondary)

The applicant’s ability to deliver the proposed project, with a focus on the computational elements of the work. In particular, the:

  • appropriateness of the track record of the applicant
  • balance of skills of the project team, including collaborators.

Feedback

Feedback will not be provided except where specifically requested by the panel. In that case, the feedback will be communicated by either EPSRC (for ARCHER2) or the relevant Tier-2 service.

Contact

Get help with developing your proposal

For help and advice on writing your proposal, please contact your research office in the first instance, allowing sufficient time for your organisation’s submission process.

Ask about access to high performance computing

Research Infrastructure team

Email: researchinfrastructure@epsrc.ukri.org

Billy McGregor

Email: billy.mcgregor@epsrc.ukri.org

Richard Bailey

Email: richard.bailey@epsrc.ukri.org

Include ‘access to HPC’ in the subject line.

Other routes to accessing high performance computing (HPC)

This application combines the previous ‘Access to HPC’ and ‘ARCHER2 pioneer projects’ opportunities into one initiative.

This route may not be appropriate for some projects in need of computational support. There are a variety of other routes researchers can use to access EPSRC HPC services.

We recommend that you familiarise yourself with the following routes to ensure you apply to the most appropriate one for your project.

ARCHER2

For details of other access mechanisms to the ARCHER2 service, read the service’s information about getting access to ARCHER2.

Tier-2 services

Following a prior discussion with EPSRC, researchers can request computational time on Cirrus and CSD3 to support their work as part of their full grant applications.

Pump priming

Researchers can request a small amount of resource awarded through a light-touch process in order to try, test and scale their code on the following systems:

Additional information on these access routes can be found on the service websites.

Any questions about these routes can be directed to the research infrastructure team (details provided in the ‘contact’ section).

Responsible innovation

EPSRC is fully committed to develop and promote responsible innovation. Research has the ability to not only produce understanding, knowledge and value, but also unintended consequences, questions, ethical dilemmas and, at times, unexpected social transformations.

We recognise that we have a duty of care to promote approaches to responsible innovation that will initiate ongoing reflection about the potential ethical and societal implications of the research that we sponsor and to encourage our research community to do likewise.

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