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UK Invests £158 Million in High-Tech Infrastructure


Dec. 1 -- UK scientists and businesses will have access to the most sophisticated technology keeping them at the cutting edge of research and development, as details of the Government’s multi-million pound e-infrastructure investment were announced today by David Willetts.

The investment includes £43 million for ARCHER, a new national supercomputer to support advanced research, such as complex chemistry and climate science, while helping industry design new products. For sectors such as aerospace and automotive, this could lead to better analysis of car incidents, helping industry build safer vehicles in less time.

E-infrastructure also supports the world’s best researchers through increased data storage and faster networks.

Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts said:

“We should not think of infrastructure as just roads and railways – it’s also the networks and systems that underpin our world-leading science and research base. This ambitious and forward-looking programme of investment will be vital for businesses and universities alike. It will improve research and manufacturing processes and reduce the time and money it takes to bring a product to market.

“This will drive growth and innovation across a whole range of sectors and ensure our leading institutions and companies are able to exploit the very latest technology.”

The following projects will also benefit from the £158 million investment:

* £30 million for the Daresbury Science and Innovation Campus, supporting research into the latest product development software;

* £24 million for high capacity data storage across the Research Councils, ensuring researchers can easily access complex information from experiments;

* £31 million to improve high capacity networks, including JANET, a system funded by the UK higher education funding bodies that helps the higher education community share large amounts of research data more easily;

* £19 million for specialist supercomputers in areas such as particle physics and astronomy, weather forecasting and climate change, and genome analysis;

* £4.75 million for the UK Space Agency to support the collection and storage of data from satellites; and

* £6.5 million to establish a research fund for collaborative university projects to improve access to e-infrastructure.

Welcoming the news, Chair of Research Councils UK (RCUK) Professor Rick Rylance said:

“This investment is especially welcome in the challenging economic times we all face. Investment in high performance computing and increased data storage capacity is essential to ensure research in the UK remains at the cutting-edge in the most advanced areas and is capable of stimulating growth. It signals once again RCUK’s commitment to supporting the best and the most innovative work and ensuring the future prosperity and wellbeing of the UK.”

This investment is in addition to the ring-fenced science and research budget and is subject to business case approval.

Notes

1. E-infrastructure consists of data storage, faster networks and large, high-performance supercomputers (HPC).

2. HPC is the use of powerful and massively parallel processors to tackle problems that are very computer or data-intensive. The largest supercomputers containing hundreds of thousands of processors can operate at around 1,000,000,000,000,000 operations per second.

3. We are investing £145 million in e-infrastructure with additional £13M from the Autumn Statement, bringing the total to £158M. This allows for the complete funding of ARCHER, the new national supercomputer.

4. BIS's online newsroom contains the latest press notices, speeches, as well as video and images for download. It also features an up to date list of BIS press office contacts. See http://www.bis.gov.uk/newsroom for more information.

Case studies

Weather forecasting

The new, more-powerful, Met Office supercomputer has been operational since 2009. It is now providing more accurate forecasting of small-scale, high-impact weather events, with earlier warnings for the public and civil response authorities. It has also resulted in continued improvements in the quality of routine automated UK and global forecasts at all ranges, which is particularly beneficial during volcanic ash incidents, storms and floods, and for transport providers and utility companies.

Part of the £145 million will be invested in the highly successful joint Natural Environment Research Council and Met Office supercomputing project (‘MONSooN’) based at Exeter. The weather and climate research undertaken on MONSooN helps to improve our understanding of atmospheric science, leading to improved weather services and advice for policy makers, business and the public. MONSooN Phase 2 will enable the capacity to be increased by 50 per cent.

DNA sequencing

DNA sequencing requires e-infrastructure to process and interpret increasingly large amounts of research data. Investment will be made to develop new computing infrastructure at The Genome Analysis Centre in Norwich, which receives strategic funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.

It will be equipped with cutting edge computing hardware for data processing, vital for providing high quality, meaningful information to researchers in industry and academia in support of global challenges like food security. This could ultimately lead to, for example, the development of better crops, able to withstand challenging conditions like drought.

Aerospace and automotive manufacturing

To compete with the rest of the world, British manufacturers need to bring the most sophisticated technology to market as quickly and cheaply as possible. To meet these challenges, the aerospace industry is making increasing use of “virtual prototyping”, with an aim for physical testing to be all but eliminated until the final verification phases. This reduces product development risk and can lead to new manufacturing processes.

In the past the automobile industry would have been content to model the collapse of the rear bumper of a car on impact. Now the industry has the ability to model the effect of the impact on the structure of the whole car, the deployment of the air bag and even the effect of the impact on the internal organs of the passenger.

These approaches places enormous demands on e-infrastructure, but are essential if the UK is to remain at the leading edge of manufacturing. We are investing in the software development tools to model and simulate these product and process developments.

Digital media

The entertainment and media industry is a $1.7 trillion market, and the production engines of TV, films and gaming are making increasing demands on computer processing.
The creative industries have always pushed the boundaries of hardware and software to ensure maximum ‘realism’ in representing the world, and DreamWorks (producers of Shrek and Monsters Versus Aliens) considers HPC to be one its most vital strategic assets.

The UK Visual Effects (VFX) and post-production industry is one of the top three in world, and to remain so it will have to be at the forefront of technological development, including HPC. Currently, VFX work is a very slow process for the creation of a high quality image. Real time rendering, driven by HPC, will be a major commercial driver when film studios and production companies are choosing their post-production houses.

Game developers already use real-time rendering - even at TV HD quality - but to improve image quality and match those of film and future TV resolutions, these developers will need HPC - especially as content is transferred from one medium to another. The introduction of stereoscopic and auto-stereoscopic (glasses-free) 3D, particularly for live events, is currently hindered by the lack of good and reliable real time processing for the alignment of the left and right eye image channels. This can only be resolved by HPC.

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Source: News Distribution Service (NDS)

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