Government invests £30m in supercomputer software research

The government is investing £30m to develop supercomputer software that can handle huge datasets such as the output of ultra-sensitive radio telescopes.

The funds are an attempt to establish the UK as a world leader in energy-efficient supercomputer software and provide the tools to help industry carry out advanced modelling techniques to test new materials or aircraft designs.

There will be a particular focus on the field of data created by large experimental research initiatives, and a portion of the money will be dedicated to creating software for the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), the world’s largest radio telescope.

The Science and Technology Facilities Council’s (STFC’s) Hartree Centre at the Daresbury Laboratory near Warrington will receive £19m of the funds to support its work on power-efficient computing technologies. The remaining £11m will go towards developing software for the SKA.

STFC chief executive Prof John Womersley 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 [research and development] into commercial opportunities and provide UK businesses with the technology they need to be able to grow and compete on a global scale.’

Chancellor George Osborne announced the investment, allocated from the £600m of government science funding revealed in the 2012 Autumn Statement, on Friday as he visited the Hartree Centre.

‘Britain is in a global race and we are in a position to lead the way in science and technology,’ Osborne said in a statement. ‘Projects such as the Daresbury development are crucial to boosting the economy and putting the UK at the forefront of the big data revolution.’

Researchers at Hartree, home of the UK’s most powerful working supercomputer, the IBM BlueGene/Q, are already working with the likes of IBM and Intel to develop new technology.

They have also used their tools to help commercial partners such as Bentley, which has used the centre’s 3D Visualisation Suite to reduce the number of prototypes needed in the development of a new car.