The UK government has pledged £225 million to develop a supercomputer that could be ten times more powerful than the country’s current fastest.
Dubbed Isambard-AI in honour of the famed engineer, the supercomputer is expected to host 5,000 state-of-the-art superchips, through which it’d be capable of making 200 quadrillion (200,000,000,000,000,000) calculations every second. This wouldn’t just make it by far the UK’s fastest supercomputer but one of the most powerful in Europe.
With this enormous processing power, Isambard-AI will be tasked with driving new scientific discoveries in the worlds of robotics, big data, climate research and drug discovery.
Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) has been chosen as the preferred supplier, with NVIDIA providing the superchips.
Following the announcement of the government’s £225 million investment Michelle Donelan, the Science, Innovation and Technology Secretary, said that Britain was “grasping the opportunity” to become a world leader in AI technology. The aim, she added, was to help people live healthier, easier and longer lives.
Isambard-AI has emerged from the GW4 Alliance, comprising the universities of Bristol, Bath, Cardiff and Exeter. Once complete it will be installed at the National Composites Centre on the outskirts of Bristol.
The centre is already preparing to welcome businesses and researchers operating within a whole range of disciplines to help them discover the ways in which powerful AI technology could drive advances in their fields.
There will be a particular focus on drug discovery and climate research, as well as big data and robotics.
Director of the Isambard National Research Facility at the University of Bristol, Professor Simon McIntosh-Smith, told the BBC: “It’s immensely exciting to be at the forefront of the AI revolution and to partner with industry leaders HPE and NVIDIA to rapidly build and deploy large-scale research computing infrastructure to create one of the most powerful supercomputers in the world.
“Isambard-AI will offer capacity never seen before in the UK.”