Funding for the new service was announced by Chancellor Jeremy Hunt in the Spring Budget as part of an investment of around £900 million in both Exascale and a separate artificial intelligence (AI) research resource.
Exascale supercomputers are capable of performing a billion billion calculations every second. This enormous power can be used to create computer models of the world around us to test theories, explore ideas and optimise designs.
They have applications across all areas of scientific and industrial research and provide an unrivalled platform for interdisciplinary research and innovation such as drug discovery, designing new materials, and weather and climate prediction.
UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) will deliver the new service, with delivery subject to full business case approval.
Digital research infrastructure
It will complement other programmes and projects across UKRI’s digital research infrastructure and compute portfolio in enabling researchers, policymakers and innovators to solve problems, and to analyse and understand complex topics.
Science, Innovation and Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan said:
If we want the UK to remain a global leader in scientific discovery and technological innovation, we need to power up the systems that make those breakthroughs possible.
This new UK Government funded exascale computer in Edinburgh will provide British researchers with an ultra-fast, versatile resource to support pioneering work into AI safety, life-saving drugs, and clean low-carbon energy. It is part of our £900m investment in uplifting the UK’s computing capacity, helping us forge a stronger Union, drive economic growth, create the high-skilled jobs of the future and unlock bold new discoveries that improve people’s lives.
UKRI Chief Executive Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser said:
State-of-the-art compute infrastructure is critical to unlock advances in research and innovation, with diverse applications from drug design through to energy security and extreme weather modelling, benefiting communities across the UK.
This next phase of investment, located at Edinburgh, will help to keep the UK at the forefront of emerging technologies and facilitate the collaborations needed to explore and develop game-changing insights across disciplines.
Preparing for a data-driven future
The University of Edinburgh has now been chosen as the preferred location for the first phase of the new service following a robust ranking exercise.
Professor Sir Peter Mathieson, Principal and Vice Chancellor of the University of Edinburgh, said:
We are thrilled to be chosen to host this significant leap forward in the UK’s supercomputing capabilities.
Bringing the Exascale computer to Edinburgh is a testament to our expertise in managing such world-class facilities, and the depth of global talent in computer science and AI within the University.
Exascale’s power will help all who work with it to untangle some of the world’s knottiest problems, ensure the UK is prepared for the data-driven future, and further establish Edinburgh as the data capital of Europe.
Underpinning ambitious research
As outlined in the Future of Compute Review and the 2023 Budget, we will take a phased approach to the introduction of the new service. We intend to appoint a preferred bidder to install the first part of the system in 2025.
The new Exascale service is a key component of UKRI’s digital research infrastructure strategy. It aims to seamlessly connect researchers, policy makers and innovators to the computers, data, tools, techniques and skills that underpin the most ambitious and creative research.
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