Scotland to lead new age of UK supercomputing
The UK’s first next-generation exascale supercomputer – 50 times faster than any of the country’s existing machines – is to be hosted by Scotland’s University of Edinburgh.
It will provide high-performance computing capability for key research and industry projects across the UK, including AI, drug discovery and climate change.
Being one of only a few of its kind worldwide, the machine will be housed in a new £31 million wing of the University’s supercomputing centre (EPCC) which has been purpose-built as part of the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal.
The computer is to be funded by the Department of Science, Innovation and Technology through UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). Installation of the first phase of exascale is due to begin in 2025.
The University has been home to the UK’s high-performance computing services for more than 30 years, and it hosts the country’s current national supercomputer, ARCHER2.
According to experts, the investment means Edinburgh is one of the few places in Europe able to house a computer of such enormous scale.
UK Chancellor Jeremy Hunt first announced funding for the new supercomputer in the Spring Budget as part of a £900 million investment to uplift the UK’s computing capacity.
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 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.”
According to professor sir Peter Mathieson, principal and vice chancellor of the University of Edinburgh, exascale’s power will also 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”.
There has long been a call for investment in supercomputing, particularly since developments in conversational AI.
Earlier this year, Nvidia announced plans to rent-out its powerful and expensive supercomputers to businesses that were unable to otherwise reimage their products and services due to the influx of generational AI capabilities.
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