Supercomputer for science park

A NEW supercomputer research centre at the Bristol & Bath Science Park will put it “at the centre of the AI revolution”.

The new Artificial Intelligence Research Resource (AIRR) will be a multi million-pound facility, run by Bristol University and based at the National Composites Centre on the science park in Emersons Green.

It will be home to Isambard-AI, which is expected to be the most powerful supercomputer in the UK and among the most powerful in Europe when it opens next year.

It will be used by a wide range of organisations from industry and research bodies across the UK to harness the power of AI, in areas ranging from data and robotics to drugs and climate research.

The university says the AIRR will be used by researchers and industry experts using artificial intelligence to lead innovation and scientific discovery, and “places Bristol at the centre of the AI revolution”, putting it on the global map

Bristol University is already home to the UKRI Centre for Doctoral Training in Interactive Artificial Intelligence and is due to install the Isambard 3 supercomputer later this year to support research in AI and machine learning.

The Isambard-AI project is being led by the university’s Professor Simon McIntosh-Smith and Dr Sadaf Alam and their High Performance Computing (HPC) team, working with the universities of Bath, Cardiff and Exeter, known together as the GW4 Group.

The supercomputer is part of a £900 million investment to transform the UK’s computing capacity first announced by the government in March.

Prof McIntosh-Smith said: “We’re delighted to be chosen as the site to host the UK’s first ever Artificial Intelligence Research Resource.

“Isambard-AI will be one of the world’s first, large-scale, open AI supercomputers, and builds on our expertise designing and operating cutting-edge computational facilities, such as the incoming Isambard 3.”

The university believes the project will put the region “on the global map” for AI and high-performance computing..

Figures for the cost of the new centre and the number of people it will employ are not yet confirmed but it is expected to open next summer.

Bristol University’s pro vice-chancellor for research and enterprise, Prof Phil Taylor, said: “AI is expected to be as important as the steam age, with ramifications across almost every area of academia and industry. Bristol is proud to be at the forefront of this revolution.

“We have unique expertise in rapidly building and deploying large-scale research computing infrastructure and we’re excited to play an integral part in establishing the UK as an international hub for AI.”

Politicians from across the political divide have welcomed the announcement.

Science, Innovation and Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan said: “The Isambard-AI cluster will be one of the most powerful supercomputers in Europe, and will help industry experts and researchers harness the game-changing potential of AI, including through the mission-critical work of our Frontier AI Taskforce.”

Metro Mayor Dan Norris said: “This is a massive vote of confidence in the West of England, and our world-leading researchers and high-tech and science sectors. I’m sure it’s something Brunel himself would have been incredibly proud of.”