The UK government has unveiled plans to build a cutting-edge supercomputer with a budget of about £900 million, which is equivalent to US$1.1 billion. This high-performance computing powerhouse, known as Isambard-3, pays homage to the renowned 19th-century British engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel.
The supercomputer is slated for installation at the National Composites Centre in Bristol later this year. Notably, the University of Bristol, which houses the UKRI Centre for Doctoral Training in Interactive Artificial Intelligence and is a member of the GW4 university consortium alongside Bath, Cardiff, and Exeter, will play a pivotal role in this endeavor.
Bristol University will also serve as the host institution for the new AI Research Resource, also referred to as AIRR or Isambard-AI. AIRR is envisioned as a national facility dedicated to supporting AI research and ensuring the responsible and safe use of this transformative technology. Both the supercomputer and AIRR are funded through the government’s AI investment initiative, which was initially announced in March.
The supercomputer is expected to be a formidable computing entity, featuring thousands of cutting-edge graphics processing units (GPUs). This configuration is anticipated to position it as one of Europe’s most powerful supercomputers. These developments were confirmed in a statement released by the Department for Science, Innovation, and Technology (DSIT).
Michelle Donelan, the Secretary of State for Science, Innovation, and Technology, expressed enthusiasm about this ambitious project, stating, “We are backing the future of British innovation, investing in a world-leading AI Research Resource in Bristol that will catalyze 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,” she added.