UK’s most powerful supercomputer will make Bristol global centre for AI innovation

September 15, 2023

Bristol has been chosen as the home for the UK’s most powerful supercomputer working on artificial intelligence in a move that will put the city at the heart of the UK’s AI revolution.

To be known as Isambard-AI, the University of Bristol-hosted supercomputer will also be among the most powerful in Europe when it opens at the National Composites Centre (NCC), pictured, on the Bristol & Bath Science Park next year.

The new AI Research Resource (AIRR), which will host Isambard-AI, will serve as a national resource for researchers and industry experts spearheading AI innovation and scientific discovery.

Plans for the supercomputer are backed by a £900m government investment to transform the UK’s computing capacity and establish a dedicated AI Research Resource.

The new multi-million pound Bristol facility will be used by a wide range of organisations from across the UK to harness the power of AI, which is already the main driver of emerging technologies such as big data and robotics.

The new supercomputing facility will also play a vital role in important areas such as accelerating automated drug discovery and climate research.

Bristol is already one of the top UK universities for AI research and scientific computing.

Another supercomputer, Isambard 3, will be installed later this year to support research in AI and machine learning, while the university is also home to the UKRI Centre for Doctoral Training in Interactive AI.

These next-generation capabilities are expected to put both the city and region on the global map for AI and high-performance computing (HPC), and further cement the West of England’s reputation as a place to collaborate and innovate.

The Isambard-AI project is being led by Bristol-based experts Prof Simon McIntosh-Smith and Dr Sadaf Alam with their team in HPC, working in collaboration with the GW4 group of universities – an alliance which also includes Bath, Cardiff and Exeter.

Prof McIntosh-Smith said: “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.”

University of Bristol pro vice-chancellor for Research and Enterprise Prof Phil Taylor added: “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.

“To be selected to host a new national AI supercomputer speaks to the university’s cutting-edge research into AI and machine learning.

“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.”

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