Exascale computer for Edinburgh 

Next-generation compute system will be among the fastest in the world, with the aim of revolutionising breakthroughs in AI, medicine and clean, low-carbon energy. 

The University of Edinburgh is the preferred choice to host the new national exascale facility. Computing power is measured in floating point operations or ‘flops’, which is the number of arithmetic calculations that can be performed in a second. Exascale computing is 50 times faster than the current top-end ARCHER2 system – which is also based in Edinburgh.

aerial view photography of city at night

Photo by Roan Lavery

This increased computing power means the new exascale computer will be able to carry out highly complex functions with increased speed and precision. This enables researchers to accelerate work in the most needed areas, such as the development of new drugs and advances in nuclear fusion. 

The exascale system at Edinburgh will carry out this kind of complex work while also supporting research into developing safe AI.  

Computing power is measured in ‘flops’ – floating point operations – which means the number of arithmetic calculations that a computer can perform every second.  An exascale system will be 50 times more powerful than our current top-end system, ARCHER2, which is also housed in Edinburgh. 

Of course, the announcement means additional, high-skilled jobs in Edinburgh and a sizeable boost to the UK’s capability in innovation, research and technology. The hope is that this will aid economic growth more widely. It follows news we reported last month that Bristol will host the new Isambard-AI supercomputer – set to be one of the most powerful AI systems in Europe. 

Michelle Donelan, Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology, says: ‘‘If we want the UK to remain a global leader in scientific discovery and technological innovation, we need to power up the systems that make those breakthroughs possible. 

‘This new UK government funded exascale computer in Edinburgh will provide British researchers with an ultra-fast, versatile resource to support pioneering work into AI safety, life-saving drugs, and clean low-carbon energy. It is part of our £900 million investment in uplifting the UK’s computing capacity, helping us forge a stronger Union, drive economic growth, create the high-skilled jobs of the future and unlock bold new discoveries that improve people’s lives.’ 

Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser, Chief Executive of UK Research and Innovation, adds: ‘State-of-the-art compute infrastructure is critical to unlock advances in research and innovation, with diverse applications from drug design through to energy security and extreme weather modelling, benefiting communities across the UK.  

‘This next phase of investment, located at Edinburgh, will help to keep the UK at the forefront of emerging technologies and facilitate the collaborations needed to explore and develop game-changing insights across disciplines.’ 

Alister Jack, Secretary of State for Scotland, says: ‘We have already seen the vital work being carried out by ARCHER2 in Edinburgh and this new exascale system, backed by the UK government, will keep Scotland at the forefront of science and innovation. As well as supporting researchers in their critical work on AI safety this will bring highly skilled jobs to Edinburgh and support economic growth for the region.’ 

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