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UK triples funding for supercomputers in Cambridge and Bristol

UK supercomputer funding to triple in Cambridge and Bristol
Image credit: Gorodenkoff / Shutterstock

UK supercomputers will receive triple the previously announced funding as part of a government plan to equip researchers with tools to assess the safety of advanced AI models.

Cambridge has been selected as the site for the second supercomputer, with Bristol unveiled as the first location last month.

The AI Research Resource will now receive £300m instead of the £100m initially announced in March during the Spring Budget.

It comes as the UK is hosting a summit on AI safety at Bletchley Park. On Wednesday, 28 nations signed a declaration setting out a shared agreement on the risks posed by AI.

“Frontier AI models are becoming exponentially more powerful. At our AI Safety Summit in Bletchley Park, we have made it clear that Britain is grasping the opportunity to lead the world in adopting this technology safely so we can put it to work and lead healthier, easier and longer lives,” said Michelle Donelan, the science and tech secretary of state.

“This means giving Britain’s leading researchers and scientific talent access to the tools they need to delve into how this complicated technology works.”

The Cambridge supercomputer, called ‘Dawn’, will be powered by 1,000 water-cooled chips and will work on climate modelling, healthcare and fusion energy. It is expected to be operational in the next two months.

Dawn joins the Isambard-AI a supercomputer, which will be located at the University of Bristol. The government said the supercomputer will be 10 times faster than the UK’s current fastest machine and cost £225m.

Technology company Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) has been named as the supplier for the Bristol computer, which will be powered by over 5,000 Nvidia chips.

“In building one of the world’s fastest AI supercomputers, the UK is demonstrating the importance for nations to create their own infrastructure,” said Ian Buck, vice president of hyperscale and HPC at Nvidia.

“Isambard-AI will provide researchers with the same state-of-the-art AI and HPC compute resources used by the world’s leading AI pioneers, enabling the UK to introduce the next wave of AI and scientific breakthroughs.”

There have been concerns that the project would be hampered by a lack of electricity for the grid to power the supercomputer’s GPUs, according to The Telegraph.

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