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Game-changing exascale computer planned for Edinburgh

Edinburgh has been selected to host one of the world's fastest next-generation supercomputers.

DSIT have recently announced that Edinburgh has been named as the preferred choice to host the new national exascale facility, paving the way for potential breakthroughs in artificial intelligence (AI), medicine, and clean low-carbon energy.

Exascale is the next frontier in computing power, where systems are built to carry out extremely complex functions with increased speed and precision. This enables researchers to accelerate their work into some of the most pressing challenges we face, including the development of new drugs, and advances in nuclear fusion to produce potentially limitless clean low-carbon energy.

The exascale system hosted at the University of Edinburgh will be 50 times more powerful than the UK's current top-end system, meaning that it will be able to carry out these complicated workloads while also supporting critical research into AI safety and development. This will be crucial as the UK seeks to safely harness its potential to improve lives across the country.

Michelle Donelan – Science, Innovation and Technology Secretary, DSIT, yesterday 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 UK government funded 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. It is part of our £900 million investment in uplifting the UK’s computing capacity, helping us forge a stronger Union, drive economic growth, create the high-skilled jobs of the future and unlock bold new discoveries that improve people’s lives.

The investment will mean new high-skilled jobs for Edinburgh, while the new national facility would vastly upgrade the UK’s research, technology and innovation capabilities, helping to boost economic growth, productivity and prosperity across the country in support of the Prime Minister’s priorities.

If interested, you can read the event round-up from techUK's webinar exploring how we can make the UK a world-leader in compute here and view all the inisghts from our #FutureofCompute Week 2022 here.

The announcement follows the news earlier this month that Bristol will play host to a new AI supercomputer, named Isambard-AI, which will be one of the most powerful for AI in Europe. The cluster will act as part of the national AI Research Resource (AIRR) to maximise the potential of AI and support critical work around the safe development and use of the technology.

Plans for both the exascale compute and the AIRR were first announced in March, as part of a £900 million investment to upgrade the UK’s next-generation compute capacity, and will deliver on two of the recommendations set out in the independent review into the Future of Compute.

Chaired by Zoubin Ghahramani FRS, Professor, University of Cambridge and Vice President of Research, Google, the review panel also featured techUK's Director of Tech and Innovation, Sue Daley.

Speaking about the announcement, Sue yesterday said:

High-performance compute and other forms of computing will increasingly become an essential element of the UK's technology ecosystem, enabling and accelerating innovation across future and emerging technologies. techUK is pleased to see this Exascale announcement, which demonstrates the investment, ambition and long-term thinking required if the UK is to be a world-leader in science and innovation. It's also important that Government continue to implement the wider recommendations set out in the Future of Compute Review and ensure that there is a cohesive approach between compute and other technologies in which the UK can lead, in particular AI.

Sue Daley – Director of Tech and Innovation, techUK

Both announcements come as the UK prepares to host the world’s first AI Safety Summit on 1 and 2 November. The summit, which will be informed by four official pre-summit events, including the joint techUK/DSIT roundtable on frontier AI safety, will bring together leading countries, technology organisations, academics and civil society.

The aim will be to ensure we have global consensus on the risks emerging from the most immediate and rapid advances in AI and how they are managed, while also maximising the benefits of the safe use of the technology to improve lives.

You can find out more about techUK's work on AI safety by visiting our AI Safety Hub.

Future of Compute Hub

techUK is exploring with members how we can develop our compute infrastructure, safeguard the legacy of Turing and Lovelace, and position the UK for success.

Find out more


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