ExCALIBUR is a UK research programme that aims to deliver the next generation of high-performance simulation software for the highest-priority fields in UK research.
Running until March 2025, it is redesigning high priority computer codes and algorithms to meet the demands of both advancing technology and UK research.
The purpose of this funding opportunity
This is a UKRI Strategic Priorities Fund open funding opportunity. Its aim is to identify and develop a high priority use case that contributes to the delivery of the objectives of the ExCALIBUR programme.
We are looking for projects which will research methodologies to redesign the use cases for supercomputers of the near future and beyond.
You will be expected to engage with the ExCALIBUR programme ExCALIBUR Hardware and Enabling Software Group to discuss access to their facilities. Engagement and collaboration with other projects funded by the ExCALIBUR programme is a requirement for all proposals.
The project will need to begin by 1 December 2022.
This is the second phase of ExCALIBUR high priority use case funding. The first phase included 10 Design and Development Working Groups (DDWGs) which were funded in 2020 to identify and investigate a high priority exascale software use case.
Following this, three high priority use case grants were funded in 2021. You can find the funded grants on the ExCALIBUR webpage.
Find out more on the ExCALIBUR website.
Successful projects will look to engage in collaborations with other projects within the ExCALIBUR programme.
Collaborations are expected throughout the programme to develop approaches to common computational elements that have relevance to multiple codes and applications.
Applicants should evidence current and future collaborations with other research institutes, industry and international outfits.
Phase two project objectives
The ExCALIBUR programme is built around four fundamental pillars that describe the principles that guide the development of its research. The pillars are designed to ensure that the outcomes are future proofed against the constantly evolving landscape of hardware design.
Your project will need to capture the principles of the four pillars, to redesign the use cases for supercomputers of the near future and beyond.
The four pillars are:
- separation of concerns, which is separating the mathematical problem from the computer science implementation
- co-design, including holistic, collaborative system design by mathematicians, domain scientists and computer scientists
- data science, covering new workflows to manage and analyse vast volumes of simulation data
- investing in people, which is interdisciplinary research software engineer (RSE) career development driven by forward-looking scientific software design.
This funding opportunity will assess the proposed high priority use case through a two stage process and the assessment criteria detailed in the ‘how we will assess your application’ section.
Your application should highlight how the current work will be a foundation for the proposed future work, emphasising the benefits of the continuity of funding in this area.
Characteristics of high priority use case
A high priority use case for exascale software development is defined by the ExCALIBUR programme.
It is described as ‘a coordinated range of activities, which aims to develop simulation code with a focus on an application or applications pre-identified by the relevant communities as benefitting from exascale software development’.
This definition is accepted by the ExCALIBUR Programme Board and Steering Committee.
A high priority use case for exascale software development has the following characteristics:
- provides a step-change in simulation performance or provides solutions that are not currently feasible, consistent with the enhanced performance of exascale computing
- enables high quality, high impact research in multiple areas of strategic importance
- provides applicable and scalable solutions that can be applied across a range of architectures, including non-exascale systems
- provides a national and international focal point for the relevant research communities, including the development of partnerships with complementary initiatives in the UK and internationally.
Funding opportunity scope
High priority use case aims
This funding opportunity is aimed towards applicants with the capacity to produce a developed proposal which incorporates the four ExCALIBUR pillars and delivers the following:
- a high priority use case for exascale software
- active knowledge dissemination strategy for the communities that the use case serves
- active outreach and engagement with the ExCALIBUR programme including collaborating with cross-cutting, RSE funded projects and the ExCALIBUR Hardware and Enabling Software Group.
A key criterion for the selection of use cases is the impact across the breakthrough research areas where the UK is world-leading, as described above, and their user base.
By choosing a use case that both enables strategically important research and provides lessons that can be applied to other codes or fields, the programme will maximise the impact across the scientific modelling and simulations communities.
Collaboration with industry and internationally is encouraged for this funding opportunity. You should engage with the ExCALIBUR Hardware and Enabling Software Group or the EPSRC team for information on facilities which are available.
Project deliverables and outputs
Your project should conduct a mixture of simulation code design and development, and community building activities that will engage relevant computational and user communities.
The high priority use case is a core tranche within ExCALIBUR, and your project is expected to contain:
Your project should include a strategic research agenda that clearly articulates:
- research challenges to be overcome
- key risks and mitigations.
It should set out a detailed approach to addressing these to enable development of exascale-ready software by the mid-2020s.
Your project strategy should also identify and address a high priority use case for exascale software and developing the foundations for this use case within a community.
Collaborative community development
Your project should do the following:
- provide evidence that the proposed approach has been developed collaboratively with potential beneficiaries, including co-design with industry where appropriate
- bring together subject matter experts, RSEs, computational or mathematical scientists, and any other relevant individuals and groups, to design and develop simulation codes for exascale computing that can be applied by a wide range of users in strategically important areas of research
- deliver knowledge integration across ExCALIBUR projects currently funded and those that will be funded across the duration of the programme
- establish two-way knowledge exchange with the wider research community, industry and internationally for your chosen theme on the behalf of the programme.
The bottom point should include consideration of how training and upskilling of researchers, RSEs or industry is supported to ensure they are prepared for the potential of faster software and architecture.
Development of simulation code
Your project should demonstrate the feasibility of the proposed approach through proof-of-concept studies and research outputs. Scaling should already be demonstrated at the petascale and relevant software development should already be underway.
Your project should utilise the successes and lessons learnt from the previous ExCALIBUR programme projects to address common issues that impact scientific code under development for use at exascale.
Your project should also produce and develop exascale-ready codes and software relevant to the use case, considering the maintenance and sustainability of this code.
Alignment with the ExCALIBUR programme
Additionally, proposals are expected to show development of a coherent and inclusive community of practice comprising subject matter experts, RSEs, computational or mathematical scientists, and any other relevant individuals and groups.
This should enable effective engagement between the computational research community and research communities that can benefit from exascale computing.
This engagement will form part of the two-way knowledge exchange with the wider research community, both industry and internationally. That is a critical output of all future ExCALIBUR funded projects and a specific criteria for this funding opportunity.
You should consider how you will integrate and optimise your development of scientific code in parallel with the undertakings of the ExCALIBUR cross-cutting projects, and other activities to be funded by the programme.
Knowledge exchange coordinator
Knowledge exchange (KE) is a vital component of achieving the objectives of the ExCALIBUR programme.
It will ensure integration across the programme activities where researchers are developing software and algorithms in preparation for future exascale systems.
Additionally, connections are required with potential beneficiaries in academia, public sector research establishments (PSREs), and industry to contribute to these designs and the dissemination of outcomes.
Therefore, your proposal must include a named co-investigator or research co-investigator who will have the role of a KE coordinator to lead these endeavours.
Flexible funds can be requested to deliver activities to aid KE and will be managed by the principal investigator and KE coordinator.
Expectations for this role include, but are not limited to:
- identifying opportunities for KE within their project or grant, with other ExCALIBUR programme projects or grants, and with other relevant national and international projects
- identifying opportunities for KE to develop and maintain a two-way flow of engagement and dissemination with industry and relevant national and international research communities
- developing a plan to increase the awareness of the proposed activity and the ExCALIBUR programme (the plan should include a rationale of the flexible funds requested to support this and timescales to accomplish this)
- collaborating with other ExCALIBUR KE coordinators as a network to deliver the programme’s knowledge dissemination strategy.
EPSRC will provide guidance for this role and will create activities and workshops to bring KE coordinators together.
Remit of the ExCALIBUR programme
The ExCALIBUR programme aims to encompass all fields of research within UKRI that can benefit from or advance the development of the UK’s exascale software space.
Changes in computer architectures and how we use them can cause directional shifts both in the technology and the directions of human inquiry that rely on it.
These technological advances, which are themselves evolving, coupled with algorithm and software development, will offer an enormous opportunity to address questions which until now have been beyond our reach.
Examples of the resulting breakthroughs in research areas where the UK is world-leading include (but are not limited to):
- expanding the frontier of fundamental sciences
- climate, weather and earth sciences
- computational biology
- computational biomedicine
- engineering and materials
- digital humanities and social sciences
- mathematics and science of computation.
See more examples in the UKRI science case for UK supercomputing (PDF, 1,350 KB).
The ExCALIBUR programme partners Met Office and UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) have already funded use case projects in the fusion modelling, and climate, weather and earth sciences research areas.
Links for these projects can be found in the additional resource section.
Additionally, in the most recent UKRI funding opportunity, we funded use case projects in the following areas:
Turbulence at the exascale
The aim of this project is to develop transformative techniques for future-proofing their production simulation software ecosystems dedicated to the study of turbulent flows.
Understanding, predicting and controlling turbulent flows is of central importance and a limiting factor to a vast range of industries.
Many of the environmental and energy-related issues we face today cannot possibly be tackled without a better understanding of turbulence.
Particles at exascale and investigating the challenge of particle modelling
The properties of materials and molecules are governed by the behaviour of their atoms, which in turn depend on subatomic particles such as electrons and nuclei.
At the opposite length scale, the dynamics of the universe are governed by the movement of celestial bodies and the flow of matter and energy.
Despite the enormous differences in the length and time-scales involved, there are surprising similarities in the methods required to model the micro and macro worlds.
SysGenX (composable software generation for system-level simulation at exascale)
Systems modelled by partial differential equations (PDEs) are ubiquitous in science and engineering. They are used to model problems including:
- wave propagation
- biological systems.
These problems can be in areas as varied as:
- image processing
- medical therapeutics
The vision of this proposal is the development of open, high performance, high productivity software environments and tools for the solution of partial differential equation problems at exascale for tackling these.
This funding opportunity will look to create use cases which encapsulate some of the remaining breakthrough research areas across the UKRI remit.
We encourage projects to apply in the areas of particle physics and artificial intelligence (AI) given UK strengths and the strategic importance of this area for exascale software development.
A total of £3 million is available to fund up to four projects for a duration of two years at 80% full economic cost.
Costs should include:
- flexible funds for KE activities, which are expected to be equivalent to 10% of the total funds requested
- researcher time
- technical staff time
- support staff.
Equipment over £10,000 in value (including VAT) is not available through this funding opportunity. Smaller items of equipment (individually under £10,000) should be in the ‘directly incurred, other costs’ heading.
For more information on equipment funding, see EPSRC approach to equipment funding.
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. This 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.
Therefore, applicants are expected to work within the EPSRC framework for responsible innovation.
If you are planning to include international collaborators on your proposal, you should visit Trusted Research (CPNI).
This will give you information and advice on how to get the most out of international collaboration while protecting intellectual property, sensitive research and personal information.