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Welsh universities announce supercomputing research facility

A new £15m supercomputing programme of investment has been announced by universities across Wales

Posted by Charley Rogers | May 08, 2017 | Higher education

Part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government, ‘Supercomputing Wales’ will enable the country to compete globally for research and innovation that requires state-of-the-art computing facilities to simulate and solve complex scientific problems.

The five-year programme will be led by Cardiff University, with the other university partners including Aberystwyth University, Bangor University and Swansea University. A total of £9m will be committed by the European Regional Development Fund via Welsh Government, supported by a multi-million pound investment by the four university partners.

Supercomputing Wales will provide access to powerful computing facilities to existing high-profile science and innovation projects across Wales, with the aim of capturing more research funding, increasing scientific partnerships, creating highly-skilled research jobs and supporting collaborations with industrial and other partners.

The programme includes investment in two upgraded supercomputer hubs at Cardiff and Swansea and will employ Research Software Engineers, embedded with research teams in specific domains to develop algorithms and customised software that harnesses the power of the supercomputing facilities to perform multiple computational tasks simultaneously at very high speeds.

For example, at Cardiff University, the Gravitational Physics Group who last year announced the first ever detection of gravitational waves as part of the LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory) consortium will benefit from the upgraded facilities. In the coming years, gravitational waves will allow researchers to peer into the cores of exploding stars and probe the structure of neutron stars, potentially revealing completely new and unexpected phenomena that will challenge our current understanding of the universe.

Supercomputing Wales is a significant investment that represents a major step forward for Wales, contributing towards competitiveness in science, engineering and innovation.

The Cardiff University-led Wales Gene Park will also take advantage of the facilities, helping to advance its cutting-edge research that provides understanding, diagnosis and treatment of a wide-range of inherited diseases and cancer.

At Swansea University, the facilities will support ‘The Bloodhound Project’ – the Land Speed Record project attempting to create the world's first 1,000 mph car – with the facilities used to simulate the car’s behaviour at unprecedented high speeds. Swansea University will also use the facilities to generate the global information needed for weather forecasting and improve models of the climate, with algorithms developed by the University used by the UK Met Office as part of its daily forecast.

At Aberystwyth University, the facilities will be used to support research projects including DNA sequencing for plant breeding, and the ‘Big Data’ challenges of earth observations, with the facilities used to analyse high-resolution satellite imagery to assess land cover and vegetation; whilst at Bangor University, the facilities will support tidal energy and oceanographic projects, with opportunities for interaction with the ERDF funded SEACAMS 2 project.

Cardiff University’s Professor Roger Whitaker, Director of Supercomputing Wales, said: “Supercomputing Wales is a significant investment that represents a major step forward for Wales, contributing towards competitiveness in science, engineering and innovation. The new facility will support large-scale research proposals that demonstrate the degree of ambition called for in the Welsh Government’s science policy, Science for Wales. Supercomputing has also been recognised as an important component of the UK’s new industrial strategy. This programme of investment will ensure that Welsh university research teams have access to facilities to undertake world-class research and to develop new collaborative projects with industrial and other partners."

 

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