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9 May, 2018 - 23:25 By Tony Quested

Cambridge University plugs companies into AI supercomputer

A £10 million partnership initiative will enable AI companies in the UK to plug into a Cambridge University supercomputer dedicated to advance a critical driver for economic prosperity.

The UK’s fastest academic supercomputer is being made available to the artificial intelligence community in support of the Government’s industrial strategy. 

The new AI supercomputer is a £10 million partnership between the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, the Science and Technology Facilities Council and the university. 

Capable of solving the largest scientific and industrial challenges at very high speeds, the supercomputer is supported by Cambridge’s Research Computing Service. The aim is to help companies create real business value from advanced computing infrastructures.

The supercomputer is part of the UK government’s AI Sector Deal, which involves more than 50 leading technology companies and organisations. The deal is worth nearly £1 billion, including almost £300 million of private sector investment into AI.

“AI research requires supercomputing capacity capable of processing huge amounts of data at very high speeds,” said Dr Paul Calleja, director of the university’s Research Computing Service. 

“Cambridge’s supercomputer provides researchers with the fast and affordable supercomputing power they need for AI work.”

In addition to computing power, Calleja and his team will provide training, guidance and support Cambridge researchers, and the wider UK IA industry, to make the most of their data.

“AI projects involving Cambridge researchers are already underway,” said Calleja. “In the life sciences we are working on medical imaging analysis and genomics, and in astronomy, AI is being used as part of the Square Kilometre Array project and research to map exoplanets.”

Cambridge is home to the largest technology cluster in Europe. Over the past decade, start-ups based on AI and machine learning in Cambridge and elsewhere have seen explosive growth.

Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, said: “The UK must be at the forefront of emerging technologies, pushing boundaries and harnessing innovation to change people’s lives for the better. 

“Artificial Intelligence is at the centre of our plans to make the UK the best place in the world to start and grow a digital business. We have a great track record and are home to some of the world’s biggest names in AI like DeepMind, Swiftkey and Babylon, but there is so much more we can do. 

“By boosting AI skills and data-driven technologies we will make sure that we continue to build a Britain that is shaping the future.”

The AI Sector Deal marks the first phase of a major innovation-focused investment drive in AI which aims to help the UK seize the £232 billion opportunity AI offers the UK economy by 2030 – that represents 10 per cent of GDP.

• PHOTOGRAPH SHOWS: Nick Hancock

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