Government mulls building £800m supercomputer

Newly formed technology ministry pitches for £800m in funding to build ‘exascale’ supercomputer to help drive towards Britain becoming computing tech superpower

The new Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT) has asked the Treasury for £800m to build a new “exascale” supercomputer, according to Bloomberg.

Supercomputers are thought critical for artificial intelligence research, climate change modelling and drug discover, performing trillions of operations each second.

The pitch for £800m in funding would come on top of the £250m the Government has already pledged to pump into AI and other technologies as part of its push for the UK to be a science and technology world leader by 2030.

>See also: UK government to invest £250m into AI

A Government review published on Monday warned that Britain had slipped down world rankings in terms of total computing performance. Back in 2005, the UK ranked third in terms of high-performance capacity behind the US and Japan. It is now in tenth place having been leapfrogged by China, Finland, Italy, Germany, France, South Korea and Russia.

The Future of Compute warned that Britain risked falling behind in computing, jeopardising progress in artificial intelligence research.

The review said the kind of system the UK should be building would be equivalent to the Frontier computer recently built in the US, the world’s most powerful supercomputer, at a cost of around $600m.

The review said: “The UK has great talent in AI with a vibrant start-up ecosystem, but public investment in AI compute is seriously lagging.”


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Tim Adler

Tim Adler is group editor of Small Business, Growth Business and Information Age. He is a former commissioning editor at the Daily Telegraph, who has written for the Financial Times, The Times and the...