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Edinburgh to host UK’s first exascale supercomputer as part of £900m investment

Written by Tue 10 Oct 2023

Edinburgh has been chosen to host the UK’s first exascale supercomputer, which is 50 times more powerful than the current generation of systems running in the country.

Hosted at the University of Edinburgh, the new supercomputer will have the capability to manage complex workloads that can help advance artificial intelligence (AI), medicine, clean energy, drug research, and nuclear fusion. 

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.”

The exascale supercomputer is part of a £900 million ($1 billion) investment in the UK’s computing capacity. This investment is expected to create high-skilled jobs, economic growth, and productivity.

Computing power is measured in ‘flops’, or floating point operations, which means the number of arithmetic calculations that a computer can perform every second. An exascale system is 50 times more powerful than the UK’s current top-end system, ARCHER2, which is also housed in Edinburgh.

“We have already seen the vital work being carried out by ARCHER2 in Edinburgh and this new exascale system, backed by the UK Government, will keep Scotland at the forefront of science and innovation,” said Alister Jack, Secretary of State for Scotland.

UK Research and Innovation Chief Executive Professor, Dame Ottoline Leyser, said state-of-the-art compute infrastructure is critical to unlock advances in research and innovation.

“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,” added Leyser.

The first installation phase of the exascale supercomputer is expected to begin in 2025, though it remains unclear as to when the machine will be fully operational.

The exascale announcement followed news that Bristol will host Isambard-AI, a new supercomputer that will be one of the most powerful for AI in Europe. 

Isambard-AI will form part of the national AI Research Resource (AIRR), aiming to leverage AI capabilities while prioritising the safe development and utilisation of AI.

Plans for both the exascale supercomputer and the AIRR were first announced in March, as part of a £900 million  investment to upgrade the UK’s next-generation compute capacity. These initiatives deliver on two of the recommendations outlined in the Independent Review into the Future of Compute.

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Written by Tue 10 Oct 2023

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