University of Birmingham lands £4m for high-performance computing lab

The cutting-edge facility will accelerate the scientific discovery process and provide new research insights

The University of Birmingham has won a cash injection of £4m for a brand-new computing system, designed to accelerate the scientific discovery process and support informative insights for important research topics.

Developed in partnership with the Rosalind Franklin Institute, the Alan Turing Institute and Diamond Light Source, the University of Birmingham project has been funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), part of UK Research and Innovation. An allocation of the new service will be open to EPSRC-funded researchers.

The facility, ‘Baskerville’, is the namesake of John Baskerville – the enlightenment-era ‘Brummie’ industrialist. The Tier 2 accelerated compute facility will provide a state-of-the-art platform for graphics processing unit (GPU)-accelerated computing, designed to allow researchers to advance machine learning algorithms and simulation technology, with broad applications in computer vision, language processing, molecular modelling, and materials science.

The system will be supplied by Lenovo® via the institution’s research computing framework partner OCF Ltd., who will also support the logistics of delivery.

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Professor Iain Styles of the university’s School of Computer Science took charge of the bid. “Access to accelerated computing is now a major bottleneck in computational research,” he said. “This facility will serve to accelerate progress in areas such as materials design, drug development and in machine learning research and all of its applications. We are delighted to be able to provide this new capacity to researchers at the university; at our partners…and to the wider EPSRC research community.”

Researchers from the Alan Turing Institute – the national institute for data science and AI – as well from the Rosalind Franklin Institute and all other project partners, have warmly embraced the prospect of Birmingham’s new facility.

Tomas Lazauskas, senior HPC research software engineer and research computing team lead at the Alan Turing Institute, commented: “High-performance computing services are a vital prerequisite for our community’s cutting-edge research, as they provide computational resources and technological capabilities, in addition to a diverse range of expertise. Baskerville is a tremendous addition to the battery of computing facilities available to the Turing, with a unique architecture of compute notes which will enable researchers to target even more complex and data intensive workloads than before.”

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