Supercomputer research to get £88m government injection

Investment in architecture and initiatives to tackle "the greatest economic challenge of our time"

The UK government is aiming to "supercharge" productivity in the country's manufacturing sector with an 88 million investment in new technologies and efficiency initiatives.

The investment will be made available to top researchers and analysts to explore how to boost UK productivity levels through a 'productivity institute'.

The aim is to tackle barriers such as productivity imbalances between sectors and regions, poor management practices and skills investment.

According to the government, the country's levels of productivity across certain sectors in manufacturing, like aerospace, are among the highest in Europe, but overall its productivity still lags behind major global economies.

Raising productivity is "arguably the greatest economic challenge of our time", according to professor Jennifer Rubin, executive chair of economics and social research council. She said it is needed to increase wages and living standards and to ensure benefits can be spread across sectors and regions.

"This significant investment in understanding what will drive improvements in productivity is an important opportunity for research to make a contribution to improving quality of life and economic performance," she said.

45 million of the investment will be specifically funnelled into the development of cutting-edge supercomputer software. This is technology set to transform whole sectors from agriculture and advanced aerospace to Formula One and pharmaceuticals with hyper-accurate weather predictions.

The investment will involve the Met Office and could mean businesses will receive up-to-the-minute weather forecasts, enabling them to focus on delivering their products and services efficiently, no matter the weather.

Such technology could help farmers protect crops for consistent food supplies, help airports keep flights running and businesses could foresee the impact on infrastructure that causes downtime like flooding, for example.

The UK's government said it must harness the power of advances in supercomputer architecture to meet the scientific and engineering challenges facing society. 

With the ExCALIBUR initiative, the UK will design cutting-edge algorithms and software for scientific problems on future generation supercomputers. A multidisciplinary cohort of research software engineers and scientists will work together to future-proof the UK against the fast-moving changes in this field.

Last year, HPE announced the launch of the Catalyst UK programme, a project which aimed to increase the adoption and efficiency of supercomputers in the UK.

The high-performance computing programme had supercomputers running ARM chips and SUSE open-source software built at Edinburgh Parallel Computing Centre at the University of Edinburgh, the University of Bristol, and the University of Leicester.

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