Scotland’s capital will soon be home to an exascale computer that could massively speed up research into AI safety, clean energy and drugs.
The new facility, hosted at the University of Edinburgh, will be 50x more powerful than ARCHER2, one of the world’s leading supercomputers, which is also housed in Edinburgh.
Michelle Donelan, the UK’s secretary of state for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT), says the supercomputer, which is funded by the British government, will lead to new jobs in the city.
“It is part of our £900m 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,” she says.
The announcement comes less than a month after the government picked Bristol as the home of a new £900m supercomputer optimised for AI research and development, dubbed Isambard-AI, after the famous engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel.
The two new facilities are intended to help the government deliver on two of the recommendations set out in an independent review on the future of compute, which found that the UK has just 1.3% of the exascale performance globally and its most powerful system ranks 28th in the world.
The review recommended that the government immediately invest in next-generation supercomputers in order to ramp up its capability to full exascale by 2026. It also stressed the importance of these powerful computers to ensure AI researchers can advance their work.
“The UK is falling behind international competitors and does not have a computer ecosystem fit to serve its world-class scientific base and innovative economy,” warned the report, published last year.
“Without intervention, not only will the government not be able to realise its economic, scientific and technological ambitions, but the UK’s internationally recognised strengths in science and technology will risk fading away.”
Sifted reached out to DSIT on when the supercomputer will become operational. The department says it is too early to set a timeline for when the supercomputer will go live, as officials are still in discussions with suppliers over how they can deliver the hardware.