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Cardiff University’s new supercomputer facility receives EU support

Fri 28 Apr 2017

A £15m supercomputer facility at Cardiff University has had the backing of the European Union.

Cardiff University is set to build a supercomputing facility. Entitled ‘Supercomputing Wales’, the facility will bring together students, researchers and industry members in the pursuit of scientific and engineering projects. The universities of Cardiff, Aberystwyth, Bangor and Swansea will be partnered on the development of algorithms and customised software for High Performance Computing (HPC) environments.

The five-year programme has received a boost by a financial contribution from the European Regional Development Fund, which will put in £9m ($11.6) worth of funding, with the four universities making up the remaining £6m. Additionally, the country’s extant HPC project (launched in 2009 by the universities of Cardiff and Swansea) will get some of the funds to upgrade its facilities.

Among the new facility’s research projects are a DNA sequencing programme for plant breeding and the ‘Bloodhound Project’, an advanced simulation of a modelled vehicle that can reach speeds of 1,000mph.

Cardiff University’s director of supercomputing, Professor Roger Whitaker said that the Supercomputing Wales project is a significant investment that represents a major step forward for the country, contributing towards competitiveness in science, engineering and innovation.

The new facility will support large-scale research proposals that demonstrate the degree of ambition called for in the Welsh Government’s science policy, Science for Wales,” said Professor Whitaker. “Supercomputing has also been recognised as an important component of the UK’s new industrial strategy. This programme of investment will ensure that Welsh university research teams have access to facilities to undertake world-class research and to develop new collaborative projects with industrial and other partners.”

Supercomputing Wales follows in the wake of Cardiff University’s plans for an Airbus-partnered cyber security research centre. This joint effort will work on applications of machine learning, data analytics and artificial intelligence in order to detect cyber attacks.

Dr Pete Burnap, director of the centre of excellence for cyber security analytics at Cardiff university, explained that the research centre’s aims were manifold: “Cyber security analytics is about improving our resilience to cyber-attacks through data modelling to detect and block malicious behaviour before it causes its full impact; but also about understanding what motivates the behaviour, what its likely impact will be, and how to communicate security alerts among decision and policy-makers.”

With the recent news of Britain’s planned exit from the EU in 2019, there is still some good news for the next three years, as all EU-funded projects approved before this date will still get the necessary funding from the UK Treasury until 2020. The Welsh government has said that the country is granted £680m a year by the EU. A notable example of EU investment is that of SPARC II, a photovoltaic technology research project that aims to improve local solar power capacity. The universities of Aberystwyth, Swansea and Bangor received £4.8m from the EU for this project.


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