Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Host sites for the next wave of UK government AI infrastructure

Apply for funding to host and operate large-scale compute systems for artificial intelligence (AI) applications, comprising at least 2,000 graphics processing units or equivalent AI-optimised compute architecture.

Hosts should:

  • be based in the UK
  • have suitable experience of managing such investments
  • have the space, power and cooling capability to support the infrastructure investment
  • be capable of hosting and operating systems from 2024 and no later than March 2026

Within the £500 million envelope there is no limit to the amount of funding you can apply for. Funding is available for up to five years, with the possibility of further extension. We will fund 100% of the full economic cost.

Who can apply

Applications are not limited by organisation type but the host sites are required to be in the UK.

What we're looking for

Scope

The funding is being provided by DSIT and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) is managing this process on DSIT’s behalf.

We are seeking to identify and select organisations with the ability to host and operate large-scale compute systems for AI applications, comprising at least 2,000 graphics processing units or equivalent AI-optimised compute architecture. They should also be capable of being delivered in the planned timescales 2024 to 2026.

Funding is intended to expand the AI Research Resource, a series of public clusters which will provide compute to AI researchers and startups in the UK.

This investment:

  • follows the Chancellors 2023 Autumn Statement: “the government will be investing a further £500 million in compute for AI over the next two financial years” to expand the UK’s AI Research Resource
  • is in addition to the £300 million for the first phase of the new AI Research Resource primarily at Bristol and Cambridge
  • follows the recommendation by the Future of Compute Review in 2023

This funding opportunity is to identify potential host sites and associate support teams to manage the next wave of AI compute investment.

This funding opportunity is open to host site providers and their support teams who have experience and the physical capability of hosting a national large scale compute investment, within the timescales of this funding opportunity.

Sites must be capable of receiving physical infrastructure and starting initial testing and operation by January 2026, including necessary completion of power upgrades and site construction. However, to be eligible for the first year of investment, sites will need to be able to deliver some infrastructure in the 2024 and 2025 financial year (6 April 2024 to 5 April 2025).

Duration

Up to £500 million of funding is potentially available. This covers set up and operation for a period of five years following final acceptance with a view to enhancing compute provision for AI research capability. There is an option to extend for a further one year.

Awards are intended to be made in 2024 with additional spend in the 2025 to 2026 financial year.

Funding available

Up to £500 million of funding is potentially available to support the following costs:

  • hardware
  • software
  • staff
  • power
  • site development
  • other directly relevant costs

We may support more than one site with this funding. For clarity to research organisations this will be paid at 100% full economic cost.

Please note that the total funding available may not all be awarded to the host sites directly. Procurement of the necessary supporting technology may be conducted directly through UKRI or HM government procurement processes. No decision on the technology provider has been made in advance of this funding opportunity, which relates solely to the hosting and operation of the service.

What we will not fund

We will not fund:

  • sites outside the UK
  • hosts wanting to provide compute provision which is not optimised for AI workloads
  • teams with no experience of hosting and managing large computer infrastructures
  • teams with no knowledge of and experience of working with the wider UK research ecosystem
  • sites which cannot credibly demonstrate they can deliver to current project timelines

How to apply

You must apply using the application form (DOCX, 41KB).

Deadline

We must receive your application by 13 February 2024 at 4:00pm UK time.

Following the submission of your application, your application cannot be changed, and applications will not be returned for amendment. If your application does not follow the guidance, it may be rejected.

How we will assess your application

It is intended that your application will be assessed in February 2024 by an independent panel of experts convened specifically for this funding opportunity.

Applications which do not meet the minimum criteria may be sifted out before panel assessment.

Applications will be scored and ranked by the panel, who will make a recommendation to the DSIT Secretary of State, who will make the final decision on funding allocation.

Assessment criteria

Criteria for selection include:

  • suitability of the team: to host and run the site, previous experience, credible leadership and knowledgeable team and the proven ability to support potential users
  • viability, including: ability to provide suitable physical location, necessary power, and to demonstrate credible project management for large compute investments such as risk management as well as future capacity for expansion
  • value for money and sustainability, including: existing in-kind infrastructure investments, net zero and ongoing costs

You should receive notification of the outcome in February or March 2024 but full feedback will not be provided. Based on the panel’s recommendations, the funders reserve the right to seek further information from the applicants before awarding funding.

Contact details

Ask about this funding opportunity

UKRI Digital Research Infrastructure team

Email: dri@ukri.org

Include ‘AI host call’ in the subject line.

Additional info

Webinar

We hosted a webinar on 31 January 2024. This provided a chance for potential applicants to ask questions about the funding opportunity.

Watch the webinar recording.

Passcode: +UQCA.1%

Supporting documents

Application form (DOCX, 41KB)

Updates

  • 6 February 2024
    Webinar recording added under Additional info section.

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