One of Europe’s most powerful supercomputers is being built in Bristol to provide a national resource for researchers and industry experts, with processing power to support artificial intelligence (AI) innovation and scientific discovery.
Backed by a £900m investment announced in March to transform UK’s computing capacity, the facility at the University of Bristol will host the AI Research Resource (AIRR).
The AIRR cluster, comprising thousands of graphics processing units (GPUs), is expected to boost the UK’s compute capacity significantly. The government said the new national facility will help to underpin the UK’s next-generation compute infrastructure, in line with the recommendations of the independent Future of compute review.
Science, innovation and technology secretary Michelle Donelan said: “We are backing the future of British innovation, investing in a world-leading AI Research Resource in Bristol that will catalyse scientific discovery and keep the UK at the forefront of AI development.”
Dubbed the Isambard-AI cluster, the supercomputer is set to become one of the most powerful in Europe. The government said it will be used to help industry experts and researchers harness the game-changing potential of AI, including through the mission-critical work of its Frontier AI Taskforce.
Phil Taylor, University of Bristol
Professor Phil Taylor, pro vice-chancellor for research and enterprise at the University of Bristol, said: “AI is expected to be as important as the steam age, with ramifications across almost every area of academia and industry. Bristol’s 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.”
Simon McIntosh-Smith, professor of high-performance computing (HPC) at the University of Bristol and project lead, 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.”
The UK will host the world’s first AI Safety Summit on 1 and 2 November at Bletchley Park, home of modern computing. The event will bring together experts in technology organisations, academia and civil society to discuss the risks created or exacerbated by the most powerful AI systems, and how to address and mitigate them. The summit will also look at how the benefits of safe AI can be unlocked to improve lives.