Bristol set to host UK’s most powerful supercomputer

Artificial Intelligence, Computers, News

  • UK AI Research Resource dubbed Isambard-AI will be one of Europe’s most powerful supercomputers
  • New facility will serve as national resource for researchers and industry experts spearheading AI innovation and scientific discovery
  • Plans for the supercomputer backed by £900 million investment announced in March to transform UK’s computing capacity

A new supercomputer set to be one the most powerful in Europe is to be built in Bristol, in a move it’s hoped will drive pioneering AI research and innovation in the UK.

The UK Government has confirmed the University of Bristol will host the new AI Research Resource (AIRR), which will serve as a national facility to help researchers maximise the potential of AI and support critical work into the potential and safe use of the technology.

The world-class AIRR cluster will, the Government claims, vastly increase the UK’s computing capacity. The cluster, which will be made up of thousands of state-of-the-art graphics processing units, or GPUs, will be able to train the large language models that are at the forefront of AI research and development today.

It is hoped this 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.

The new AIRR will be dubbed Isambard-AI after Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the engineer whose groundbreaking creations – including Bristol’s famous Suspension Bridge – transformed Britain and revolutionised transport and construction.

Says Science, Innovation and Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan:

“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.

“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.”

Plans for the AIRR were announced in March, backed by a £900 million investment to transform the UK’s computing capacity and establish a dedicated AI Research Resource.

Bristol already plays host to cutting-edge computing technology, with the Isambard 3 supercomputer due to be installed later this year to support research in AI and machine learning, while the University of Bristol is home to the UKRI Centre for Doctoral Training in Interactive Artificial intelligence.

Both Isambard 3 and Isambard-AI will be based at the National Composites Centre, in collaboration with the GW4 group of universities – an alliance made up of the Universities of Bath, Bristol, Cardiff and Exeter.

Chris Price
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