Supercomputer hub in Edinburgh to benefit from £3.5m investment

The Advanced Computing Facility (ACF) at the University of Edinburgh’s Easter Bush campus

A supercomputer hub in Edinburgh is to receive £3.5m in new government investment to boost its research, technology and skills base.

The cash will add to a £50m programme to upgrade the ARCHER supercomputer, run by the Edinburgh Parallel Computing Centre (EPCC), which aims to take the centre back into the world’s Top 20 supercomputers.

It had been ranked at a historic low, in terms of computing power, at 131st globally following a decade of austerity and under-investment.

The UK government announced £30 million investment for advanced supercomputing services, providing researchers with access to the latest technology and expert software engineers. It will also help them speed up scientific breakthroughs like developing ‘food fingerprinting’ to detect chemical contaminants in food and improving drug design.

The funding will support 7 High Performance Computing (HPC) services run by universities from across the UK, including Queen’s University Belfast, the University of Edinburgh, and Durham University. The services will provide researchers with invaluable access to powerful systems to support ground-breaking work in areas from Artificial Intelligence, energy storage and supply, and therapeutic drug design, as well as boosting the skills of UK scientists.

UK government Minister for Scotland Douglas Ross said: “The UK government investment in Edinburgh’s supercomputers helps keep our capital at the forefront of cutting-edge technology.

“The University of Edinburgh facility will benefit scientists from across the UK as they are given the opportunity to use this new technology. This additional funding builds on the work of the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal which is creating world-leading hubs for AI research.

“The UK government is committed to combatting the impact of climate change on top of creating thousands of high-earning jobs and ensuring businesses and public services in the UK are the first to benefit from the latest innovations.”

Cirrus Phase II: Preparing for Heterogeneity at Exascale

Led by: The Edinburgh Parallel Computing Centre at the University of Edinburgh

EPSRC support: £3.5 million

Cirrus Phase II will expand the capabilities of the Cirrus service by adding specialised GPUs to the current system. GPUs are commonly used as graphics/video cards in mobile phones, personal computers and games consoles. However, specialized GPUs can be also be used in supercomputers as accelerators enabling them to run numerical calculations more quickly. The technology used in Cirrus is expected to be used in some of the first Exascale supercomputers and will allow scientists to test and adapt their code for modelling and simulation to be ready to advance discovery and innovation as soon as Exascale systems become available. It will help to ensure the UK has a supply of individuals trained with these specialised skills and could lead to far more rapid and detailed discoveries in new areas and the projects Cirrus has already supported, such as modelling protein shape for better drug design and simulating tidal flows to optimise turbine installations and their effects on sea beds. The new GPUs will also provide a high-performance platform for AI training and research, a critical and rapidly growing area.