Researchers across the Science and Engineering South Consortium (SES) and the wider UK research community will soon benefit from an influx of funding to support scientific work on computational systems, crucial to the development of the UK economy and with high impact in areas such as the environment, technology, and health.

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research council (EPSRC) has awarded £12 million to SES institutions towards developing university Tier 2, High Performance Computing (HPC) facilities with a diversity of architectures that are designed to provide a boost to research and innovation and fill a gap where computational needs have not been met by local or national machines.

The consortium is delighted to announce the three facilities, including:

  • Cambridge Centre for Data Driven Discovery[1]  (led by The University of Cambridge), a multi-disciplinary facility providing large-scale data simulation and high performance data analytics. Projected to become one of the largest HPC facilities in the UK, Professor Chris Abell, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research at Cambridge commented that “The Centre will enable the UK EPSRC research community access to an HPC system which combines high performance simulation and data analytics capabilities that will enable significant advances in Material Science, Computational Chemistry, Computational Engineering, and Health Informatics”. Importantly, a significant portion will be available free of charge to any UK EPSRC researcher, with access also open to UK industry.
  • The MMM Hub[2], (led by University College London) or Materials and Molecular Modelling Hub. A field at the heart of almost every modern technology, materials have a vast impact on the UK economy, with applications in Energy, Transportation, Security, Healthcare and the Environment. The machine will be available to MMM Hub members in addition to the wider UK MMM and Tier 2 communities.
  • JADE[3], the Joint Academic Data Science Endeavour (led by The University of Oxford), a 5 Petaflop national GPU facility (the largest in the UK) with a focus on machine learning (partly in association with the Alan Turing Institute), image/video/audio analysis, and molecular dynamics. Applications will be in areas such as Natural Language Understanding, Autonomous Intelligent Machines, Medical Imaging, Multimedia Analysis, and Drug Design. JADE will be freely available to any UK researcher through a Resource Allocation Panel review similar to the national ARCHER system.

SES members King’s College London, Imperial College London, and The University of Southampton have collectively contributed to all three of the new facilities, alongside various institutions throughout major cities and regions of the UK who, similarly, have identified the need for such a scale and range of new HPC facilities.

Prof. Mark Spearing, Vice-President for Research and Enterprise at The University of Southampton, emphasised that the university uses“Data Intensive Computing to develop new medicines, design new airplanes, and understand social science, fundamental physics and molecular scale chemistry in partnership with industry” adding that “This resource will accelerate the work of our scientists and engineers. Correspondingly, Prof. Ian Walmsley, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research at The University of Oxford affirmed that “this new computing facility will dramatically enhance capabilities for academics and research staff”.

The speeding up of scientific research, and accordingly, value to the UK, was identified as a clear potential benefit across the board; “The MMM Hub will benefit our researchers from across the faculties and reduce overall ‘time to science’ stated Clare Gryce, Director of Research IT Services at UCL. “At UCL we believe that the use of computational and data intensive research methods, and the ready availability of associated facilities and tools, are fundamental to the health of our science and technology endeavours, and ultimately to the nation”.

All SES members have each committed to funding a Research Software Engineer/Local Support role (with a total of 12 roles funded by SES institutions across the three awards) to collaborate on application development with new users, coordinate between UK facilities, and share expertise. Upon the successful awards, Prof. Nick Jennings, Vice-Provost for Research at Imperial College London recognised that

“These successes show the value of effective coordination and partnership and the strength of high performance computing both in the UK and at Imperial College”.

SES is committed to supporting the evolution and growth of the national e-infrastructure landscape, ensuring consistency of approach in supporting UK researchers across all the new facilities, and integrating with other national and university facilities.

[1] With The University of Oxford, Imperial College London, UCL, The University of Southampton, DiRAC.

[2] With King’s College London, Imperial College London, The University of Southampton, The University of Oxford, The University of Cambridge, Queen Mary University of London, The University of Kent, and Queen’s University of Belfast.

[3] With UCL, The University of Southampton, King’s College London, The University of Edinburgh, The University of Sheffield, The University of Bristol, and Queen Mary University of London.

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