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HPCx Press Release


UK Researchers and IBM to push back frontiers of science and engineering with biggest and fastest academic computer in Europe

A supercomputer service capable of performing nearly seven trillion calculations every second and costing 53 million will be available for use by UK researchers by the end of the year, Research Councils UK (RCUK) announced today. The new service will allow researchers to address some of the most challenging problems in science.

A six year contract to manage access to the new supercomputer has been agreed between the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), and a consortium led by the University of Edinburgh, with the Council for the Central Laboratory of the Research Councils (CCLRC) and IBM. Three of the Research Councils are contributing to the cost: EPSRC, the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).

The service, which is planned to start in December, will be located at the CCLRC's Daresbury Laboratory near Warrington. A joint team from the University of Edinburgh and the Daresbury Laboratory will manage the service and provide computational science and engineering support, which is vital to ensure the most effective use of the supercomputer. It will be based on IBM POWER 4 technology, and will provide an initial capability of 6.7 Teraflop/s (6.7 million million operations per second). This performance will be upgraded to more than 11 Teraflop/s in 2004 and to 22 Teraflop/s in 2006. It will be the largest high performance computer for academic use in Europe. The new computer is a key component in the UK e-science programme, it will be connected to the Research Councils' emerging new computing resources infrastructure, called the UK Grid and be available to a widening user community.

Lord Sainsbury of Turville, Minister for Science and Innovation said: "This project is an excellent example of what the UK can achieve. Services of this kind will ensure the most effective exploitation of science for economic and social benefit. The range of applications that high performance computing can be used for will potentially enable scientists to answer some of the greatest questions about the world in which we live".

Director-General of the Research Councils, Dr John Taylor said: "Everyone knows how important computers are in the world today and how much we rely on them to perform complex as well as routine tasks. High Performance Computing (HPC) will further what we know about an enormous range of subjects from the origins of the earth to how to specifically target drugs to those in need. This facility will greatly benefit those in the UK research community to access an even greater understanding of potential solutions to problems which face them today".

Some applications of this type of technology include:

Drug design - Tomorrow's drugs will be highly specific and finely targeted using supercomputers with teraflop capability. How individual molecules interact with proteins is already known but HPC will enable more molecules to be screened faster, so more potential chemical compounds can be tested for their ability to treat disease.

Flight simulation - At present only the air-flow around the wing of an aircraft can be simulated, but HPC can, potentially, enable the analysis of the entire flow around an aircraft. Better understanding of how turbulent the air is behind an aeroplane during take-off could mean greater use of air space, which would ease the control of traffic in the air.

Structure of the earth - The earth's core has a major impact on our lives, for example it shapes the magnetic field that protects us from the harmful effects of charged particles from the Sun. HPC techniques can be used to investigate the structure and behaviour of the core in a way that is impossible by direct observation and experiment.


The new High Performance Computing contract is funded by the Engineering and Physical Science Research Council (48M), the Natural Environment Research Council (5M), and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council which will contribute on a 'pay as you go' basis, for use by the whole UK research community. Part of EPSRC funding (9 million) comes from the UK e-science programme, which is developing a national computing resources infrastructure called the UK Grid.

The MRC Press Office currently manages media relations for RCUK. For more information or to interview John Taylor please telephone the MRC Press Office on 020 7637 6011.

To contact the Press Office for EPSRC please telephone Jane Reck on 01793 444312

For NERC phone Marion O'Sullivan on 01793 411727

For BBSRC phone Andrew McLaughlin on 01793 413301

For CCLRC Daresbury Laboratory phone Tony Buckley on 01925 603272

For IBM phone Catherine Hunt on 0207 202 6354

For the University of Edinburgh phone Ronnie Kerr on 0131 650 9547

Research Councils UK (RCUK) is the collective name used by the UK Research Councils working together to create a common framework for research, training and knowledge transfer. The seven UK Research Councils are:

Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council

Council for the Central Laboratory of the Research Councils

Economic and Social Research Council

Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council

Medical Research Council

Natural Environment Research Council

Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council

About IBM

IBM is the world's largest information technology company, with 80 years of leadership in helping businesses innovate. Drawing on resources from across IBM and key Business Partners, IBM offers a wide range of services, solutions and technologies that enable customers, large and small, to take full advantage of the new era of e-business. For more information about IBM, visit http://www.ibm.com.

About the University of Edinburgh

The University of Edinburgh is a leading international centre of academic excellence, and one of the largest and most successful research universities in the UK. EPCC - a technology transfer centre which is the lead partner within the University consortium - is one of the leading HPC centres in Europe.

Further information: http://www.ed.ac.uk and http://www.epcc.ed.ac.uk

About CCLRC Daresbury Laboratory

CCLRC Daresbury Laboratory provides large-scale research facilities for the UK academic and industrial research communities. These include powerful and sophisticated computational facilities and the UK's synchrotron light source, the SRS. These facilities support research in a wide range of scientific and engineering disciplines and help to improve our knowledge of the world around us, and help industry develop new products and processes and improve our quality of life.

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