A major new £30 million government investment was announced, 1 February 2013, by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rt. Hon George Osborne, as he visited the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s Daresbury Laboratory. The investment, part of the £600m announced in the 2012 Autumn Statement, is designed to firmly establish the UK as the world leader in energy efficient supercomputer software development to meet big data challenges. Economy-boosting partnerships between research and industry are just some of the benefits poised to come from investment that will confirm the UK as a leader in the development of energy efficient super-technologies and software.
£19 million of this investment has been allocated to Daresbury’s Laboratory’s Hartree Centre, the world’s largest centre dedicated to software development and home to the most powerful supercomputer in the UK. The investment will support the progress of power efficient computing technologies designed for a range of industrial and scientific applications, and particularly in the development of software that can handle the huge amounts of data created by large experimental research initiatives, such as the Square Kilometre Array(SKA) and CERN, the largest generators of scientific data in existence.
The Chancellor, Mr Osborne said: "Britain is in a global race and we are in a position to lead the way in science and technology. Projects like the Daresbury development are crucial to boosting the economy and putting the UK at the forefront of the big data revolution."
The other £11m have been earmarked for the SKA, the world’s largest radio telescope, to develop the software capable handling the unprecedented amount of data it would produce. To put this into perspective, the data collected by the SKA in a single day would take nearly two million years to playback on an iPod.
Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts, who accompanied Mr Osborne today, said: "The next generation of scientific discovery will be data-driven. This £30 million investment will support one of the world’s leading high performance computing software centres. It will help ensure UK science and industry remains at the very forefront of research and development."
Professor John Womersley, Chief Executive at STFC, said: "This investment will enable the development of new, more capable and more energy efficient computing for an immense range of applications. For industry this could mean extreme modelling for smart materials for industrial adhesives or coatings, or in the engineering and manufacturing for the car and aerospace industries. For the consumer, it could result in longer-life mobile communications for phones and tablet computers. With the government’s strong support and continued investment, we can convert world leading R&D into commercial opportunities, and provide UK businesses with the technology they need to be able to grow and compete on a global scale. We have already started to work with a number of major industrial partners and today’s announcement confirms how important science and technology are to the UK economy."
During his visit Mr Osborne saw how the Hartree Centre is already seeing the benefits of recent government investment, through which partnerships with companies such as IBM and Intel are already in place. He also heard how a new strategic collaboration with Unilever will use high performance computing to develop new software tools that will speed up its product development processes and time to market for new products.
Mr Osborne went on to see how companies, such as Bentley, are able to use the Hartree’s cutting edge 3D Visualisation Suite to dramatically reduce the number of prototypes required in the development cycle of a new model. He also saw the most powerful supercomputer in the UK in action, the IBM BlueGene/Q. Known as the Blue Joule it is also one of the most energy efficient supercomputers in the world and was the result of Government investment as part of its e-infrastructure initiative in 2011/12, which resulted in a ‘collaboratory’ partnership with IBM. Mr Osborne also heard about a further, new strategic partnership between the Hartree Centre, IBM and the Lawrence Livermore National laboratory in the US, which will focus on the twin goals of assisting industry to exploit today’s high performance computing systems whilst enabling the development of the critical software that will run on the supercomputers of the future.
Professor Womersley added: "It is really encouraging that the government recognises the critical role that the relationship between science, innovation and industry plays in supporting economic growth in the UK. Here at Daresbury, which sits within the thriving and successful Sci-Tech Daresbury Enterprise Zone, we have world leading research, facilities and skills working with the smallest of SMEs to the largest, most impressive industrial names, that together will drive innovation and help rebalance the UK economy."
The full announcement can be viewed on the HM Treasury website (link opens in a new window) (link opens in a new window).
Images of the visit by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rt. Hon George Osborne, to STFC’s Daresbury Laboratory are available on request.