Investigate high-priority use cases for exascale software

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Apply for funding to design use cases for exascale software.

You can apply if you are a currently funded ExCALIBUR design and development working group.

Holders of postdoctoral level fellowships are not eligible to apply.

We will fund up to three projects. Your project will be funded at 80% of the full economic cost.

Your project must be three years in length. It must start on 1 December 2021.

This funding is through the Exascale Computing: Algorithms and Infrastructures Benefitting UK Research (ExCALIBUR) programme, which is part of the Strategic Priorities Fund.

Who can apply

The Design and Development Working Groups (DDWGs) were funded in 2020 to identify and investigate a high-priority exascale software use case. All groups who were funded by this tranche are eligible for this activity. Only currently funded ExCALIBUR design and development working groups are eligible to apply for this funding.

Applicants should engage with the 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.

Successful projects will have engaged in collaborations with other projects within the ExCALIBUR programme. Further collaborations are expected throughout the remainder of the programme to develop approaches to common computational elements that have relevance to multiple codes and applications. Applicants should evidence current and planned collaborations with other research institutes, industry and international groups.

If two or more DDWGs wish to reconfigure and collaboratively apply as one high priority use case, this is appropriate. Applications should clearly show how these change their composition and work plans.

You can apply if you are a researcher at:

  • a higher education institution
  • a research institute
  • an independent research organisation accredited by UKRI
  • an eligible public sector research establishment.

Read the guidance on institutional eligibility.

Holders of postdoctoral level fellowships are not eligible to apply for an EPSRC grant.

Submissions to this call will count towards the EPSRC Repeatedly Unsuccessful Applicants Policy.

What we're looking for

Synopsis

The ExCALIBUR programme is built around four fundamental pillars that describe the principles that guide the development of research under ExCALIBUR and are designed to ensure that the outcomes are future-proofed against the constantly evolving landscape of hardware design. The four pillars are:

  • separation of concerns: separating the mathematical problem from the computer science implementation
  • co-design: holistic, collaborative system design by mathematicians, domain scientists and computer scientists
  • data science: new workflows to manage and analyse vast volumes of simulation data
  • investing in people: interdisciplinary Research Software Engineer (RSE) career development driven by forward-looking scientific software design.

Expectations of DDWGs

The first opportunity produced the currently funded DDWGs. The applications should demonstrate plans for future work and how these have been informed by the work of the DDWGs towards the stated expectations.

DDWGs are expected to conduct a mixture of simulation code design and development, and community building activities that will engage relevant computational and user communities.

DDWGs are expected to deliver the following outputs:

  • a strategic research agenda that clearly articulates the research challenges to be overcome, opportunities, key risks and mitigations, and sets out a detailed approach to addressing these to enable development of exascale-ready software by the mid-2020s
  • evidence that the proposed approach has been developed collaboratively with potential beneficiaries, including co-design with industry where appropriate
  • demonstration of 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.

Characteristics of high-priority use case

A high-priority use case for exascale software development is defined by the ExCALIBUR programme and accepted by the ExCALIBUR programme board and steering committee as: a co-ordinated 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.

A high priority use case for exascale software development has the following characteristics:

  • it provides a step-change in simulation performance and provides solutions that are not currently feasible, consistent with the enhanced performance of exascale computing
  • it enables high-quality, high-impact research in multiple areas of strategic importance
  • it produces applicable and scalable solutions that can be applied across a range of architectures, including non-exascale systems
  • it 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.

Scope

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:

  • 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.

The ExCALIBUR programme partners, the Met Office and UKAEA have already funded use case projects in fusion modelling, and climate, weather and prediction. This opportunity will look to fund use cases which encapsulate some of the remaining research areas.

High priority use case aims

This 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 collaboration, outreach and engagement across the ExCALIBUR programme including future funded activities and groups.

A use case should enable both strategically important research and provide lessons that can be applied to other codes and fields, maximising the impact across the scientific modelling and simulations communities.

Although closed to the DDWGs, it is expected that these groups are dynamic and will have evolved over time (for example, new entrants to the group or merging of the groups) therefore changes to the teams are acceptable.

Collaborations with industry and international groups are encouraged. Applicants should engage with the ExCALIBUR Hardware and Enabling Software Group or the EPSRC team for information on facilities which are available.

Further funding for a high-priority software use case

The DDWGs were funded to identify a high-priority use case and develop the foundations for this use case within the relevant communities that would underpin exascale software development in the UK.

The high-priority use case is a core tranche within ExCALIBUR, and funded grants are expected to show:

  • they utilise the lessons learnt from the current DDWGs to produce and develop exascale-ready codes and software relevant to the use case, considering the maintenance and sustainability of this code
  • progress has been made in identifying and addressing a high-priority use case built upon the work of the DDWGs
  • they establish two-way knowledge exchange with the wider research community, industry and internationally for your use case on the behalf of the programme
  • proposals include consideration of how training and upskilling of researchers, RSEs or industry is supported to ensure they are prepared for the potential of exascale software and architecture
  • how they will integrate and optimise their 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, proposals must include a named co-investigator or research co-investigator who will have the role of a knowledge exchange coordinator to lead these endeavours. Flexible funds can be requested to deliver activities to aid knowledge exchange and will be managed by the principal investigator and KE coordinator. Expectations for this role include, but are not limited to:

  • identify opportunities for knowledge exchange within their project, with other ExCALIBUR programme projects, and with other relevant national and international projects
  • identify opportunities for knowledge exchange to develop and maintain a two-way flow of engagement and dissemination with industry and relevant national and international research communities
  • develop 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
  • collaborate with other ExCALIBUR knowledge exchange coordinators as a network to deliver the programme’s knowledge dissemination strategy.

Funding available

Up to £8 million is available to fund up to three projects for a duration of three years at 80% full economic cost. Financial profiles must be confirmed with EPSRC before grants can begin. Costs should include:

  • flexible funds for knowledge exchange activities (expected to be equivalent to 10% of the total funds requested)
  • researcher time
  • consumables
  • technical staff time
  • support staff.

Equipment over £10,000 in value (including VAT) is not available through this opportunity. Smaller items of equipment (individually under £10,000) should be in the Directly Incurred – Other Costs heading.

For more information on equipment funding, please see EPSRC’s equipment page.

How to apply

Applicants should ensure they are aware of and comply with any internal institutional deadlines that may be in place. You should prepare and submit your proposal using the research councils’ Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) System.

When adding a new proposal, you should go to documents, select New Document, then select:

  • Council: EPSRC
  • Document type: standard proposal
  • Scheme: standard research
  • On the project details page you should select High priority use cases for exascale software’.

After completing the application, you must ‘submit document’ which will send your application to your host organisation’s administration.

Your host organisation’s administration is required to complete the submission process. Applicants should allow sufficient time for your organisation’s submission process between submitting your proposal to them and the call closing date.

EPSRC must receive your application by 16:00 on 28 September 2021.

As well as the Je-S application form, the following documents must be submitted:

  • case for support: up to eight sides of A4
    • up to two sides of A4 to include track record to demonstrate that the proposed team has the appropriate expertise and experience to conduct the research. Non-academic partners or collaborators should be considered part of the team
    • up to six sides of A4 for the scientific case, including the evidence of progress as a DDWG and plans for knowledge exchange
  • workplan: one side of A4 including
    • details of the timescales for the planned activities, including parallel activities in the case of overlapping funding
  • justification of resources: two sides of A4
  • CVs: up to two sides of A4 each only for named postdoctoral staff, researcher- co-investigators (research assistants who have made a substantial contribution to the proposal and will be employed on the project for a significant amount of time), and visiting researchers
  • letters of support from all project partners included in the Je-S form: no page limit
  • technical assessments for facilities listed as requiring one in the Je-S guidance: no page limit
  • cover letter: optional attachment, no page limit, not seen by peer review.

You should attach your documents as PDFs to avoid errors. They should be completed in single-spaced Arial 11 font or similar-sized sans serif typeface.

For advice on writing proposals see EPSRC: preparing a proposal.

EPSRC will not fund a project if it believes that there are ethical concerns that have been overlooked or not appropriately accounted for. All relevant parts of the ethical information section must be completed.

Read further guidance on completing the ethical information section of the Je-S form. EPSRC guidance can be found under additional information.

How we will assess your application

Assessment process

This opportunity will go through a one-stage assessment process. There will be no postal peer review stage for proposals submitted to this call. An expert interview panel will assess all proposals submitted to this call.

The panel will review the DDWGs progress and their approach towards developing a use case against the expectations defined earlier in the document.

The expert panel will comprise a multidisciplinary membership of academics, industrial representatives and international expertise.

Applicants will be provided with comments prior to the panel by the expert panel, to provide them with a right to reply.

Applicants will be invited to an expert interview, the principal investigator and up to two others identified on the proposal will be invited to attend the interview. It is expected that the knowledge exchange coordinator will participate in this interview. Full guidance will be sent to candidates prior to the interview.

Assessment criteria

The criteria below will be assessed at the expert interview panel.

Quality (primary) the research excellence, evidencing:

  • the ambition, adventure, transformative aspects or potential outcomes for exascale software and algorithms
  • the current and future contribution of the use case to the ExCALIBUR programme’s objective; to deliver research and innovative algorithmic development to harness the power of exascale HPC according to the four pillars of separation of concerns, co-design, data science and investing in people
  • the contribution by the working group in addressing a high-priority use case and the novelty and timeliness of continuing to develop the use case
  • the contribution and further planned commitment of the proposed high priority use case to building a coherent community of practice comprising subject matter experts, RSEs, computational and mathematical scientists, as well as any other relevant individuals and groups
  • the suitability of the proposed methodology and the appropriateness of the approach to achieving impact.

National importance (secondary major), how the research:

  • contributes to the frontier movement of UK’s software development towards exascale, including active engagement with the ExCALIBUR programme
  • addresses a clear and timely need within the relevant research communities that builds upon the current ExCALIBUR funded approaches and has potential to leverage complementary ExCALIBUR projects
  • complements other ExCALIBUR research funded and fits the overall programme aims and objectives including evidence of current and proposed future collaborative work.

Applicant and project review (secondary), the ability to deliver the proposed project, making reference to:

  • a review of the aims and objectives of the working groups to determine the track record and appropriateness of the project
  • balance of skills of the project team, including collaborators. The high-priority use case team can also be reconfigured from one or multiple working groups
  • evidence that the applicants represent the range of expertise required to address the challenge described and that the use case is credible to the wider research community
  • the success of the working groups approach to simulation code design and development, and community building activities with emphasis on how these foundations would be built upon with further funding (has and will continue to deliver the expected outputs and outcomes).

Resources and management (secondary), the effectiveness of the proposed planning and management and whether the requested resources are appropriate and have been fully justified, making reference to:

  • evidence that the resource has been well managed for the current working group and showing where it will keep high standards and alter areas for improvement in the current planning and management structure
  • evidence that the requested resources and approach to management are appropriate with respect to the activities of the proposed use case
  • a clear working plan of how the further funding will continue contributing to the project in synergy with the current funded working plan.

Call specific criteria:

Fit to call (secondary):

  • alignment of research programme to aims and objectives of call
  • appropriate resources have been requested to support community building, responsible innovation and/or public engagement.

Knowledge exchange (secondary):

  • plan for integration and exchange of knowledge across the programme and the dissemination of knowledge with academia, PSREs and industry
  • identified opportunities and barriers to knowledge exchange within the programme and external beneficiaries and routes to mitigate these.

Feedback

Feedback will be provided by the panel so that specific issues are communicated to the applicants in case they wish to apply for a later ExCALIBUR opportunity.

You should expect a decision three weeks after the meeting.

Nominating reviewers

As part of the application process you will be invited to nominate up to three potential reviewers who you feel have the expertise to assess your proposal. Please ensure that any nominations meet the EPSRC policy on conflicts of interest.

For more information about the reviewer selection process, please see the related content links.

Contact details

For any other opportunity specific information, contact:

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

Any queries regarding the submission of proposals through Je-S should be directed to the Je-S helpdesk:

Additional info

Background

The ExCALIBUR programme

ExCALIBUR (Harnessing Exascale Computing Algorithms and Infrastructures Benefitting UK Research) is a £45.7 million Strategic Priorities Fund (SPF) programme led by the Met Office and UK Research and Innovation to meet this challenge by delivering research and innovative algorithmic development to harness the power of exascale HPC.

Radical changes to supercomputer architectures are on the horizon. The current simulation codes, that much of UK science relies on, are designed for current supercomputer architectures. These codes will, at best, not be able to fully exploit the power that the supercomputers of the mid-2020s will deliver; at worst, they will run slower on those machines than they do now.

Future computers will be more energy efficient and so the longer we rely on the current approach, the more expensive the solution will be. Therefore, it is essential that we invest now in redesigning those simulation codes so that they perform well on the future generations of supercomputers.

ExCALIBUR will be delivered over five years and will meet this challenge by delivering research and innovative algorithmic development to redesign the high-priority simulation codes to fully harness the power of future supercomputers across scientific and engineering applications.

It will achieve this by bringing together an unprecedented range of UK domain experts, mathematicians and computational scientists who will identify common issues and opportunities in the high-priority simulation codes and focus their combined scientific expertise and resources to accelerate toward interdisciplinary solutions.

The programme objectives have been designed to specifically address the benefits sought:

  • efficiency – the UK’s most important scientific simulation codes will be able to harness the power of the supercomputers of the mid-2020s resulting in an increase in scientific productivity for a given investment
  • capability – capitalising on this efficiency will enable the UK to continue to push the boundaries of science across a wide range of fields delivering transformational change in capability
  • expertise – a new, forward-facing, interdisciplinary approach to RSE career development will position the next generation of UK software engineers at the cutting-edge of scientific supercomputing.

ExCALIBUR is built around four pillars:

  • separation of concerns
  • co-design
  • data science
  • investing in people.

These pillars describe the fundamental principles that guide the development of research within the ExCALIBUR programme and are designed to ensure that the outcomes are future-proofed against the constantly evolving landscape of hardware design. It will be delivered through six main activities:

  • the redesign of a core set of simulation codes (use cases) chosen to span a wide range of science domains
  • knowledge integration across the programme through widely applicable cross-cutting themes
  • application of learning from these activities to a second wave of use cases
  • exploratory research to identify and develop emerging high-performance algorithms in areas with significant potential impact
  • an interdisciplinary research software engineer knowledge integration activity
  • an annual capital investment to support the development of novel test beds to enable co-development with industry.
Cross-cutting research

The ExCALIBUR programme defines cross-cutting research as: a coordinated approach addressing a known technology or infrastructure issue, which, if resolved, will lead to significant progress across a range of exascale software development challenges.

The themes of the cross-cutting research opportunity were defined following a market engagement event jointly held by the Met Office and EPSRC in November 2020. These themes were included within the two calls subsequently run and themes were categorised as common approaches and solutions or potential disruptors:

Common approaches or solutions:

  • I/O and storage
  • data workflow
  • coupling
  • verification, validation and uncertainty quantification
  • domain specific languages.

Potential disruptors:

  • exposing parallelism: parallel-in-time
  • exposing parallelism: task parallelism
  • machine learning: optimising numerical methods and augmenting physically based applications
  • future computing paradigms.

The grants funded through these calls will utilise the lessons learnt from the use cases and design and development working groups to address common issues that impact scientific code under development for use at exascale.

Research software engineer (RSE) knowledge integration

A landscape review is currently being developed and will be launched shortly. This review will guide the mechanism developed for the future RSE activity.

Additional documents

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