University of Oxford awarded £3.7 million to promote high performance computing

University of Oxford awarded £3.7 million to promote high performance computing

The University of Oxford is pleased to announce that it has been successful in attracting £3.7m of funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) through a collaborative bid with the Universities of Bristol, Southampton and UCL to create a Centre for Innovation in High Performance Computing (HPC) methods and technologies. The Centre will be developed via a partnership between these universities and STFC’s Rutherford Appleton Laboratory as part of the e-Infrastructure South Consortium formed by the four Universities.  

The University Of Oxford’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Andrew Hamilton, said “I am delighted that we are working with such a strong team of collaborators in the formation of this new regional Centre. There is a great history of technological innovation at Oxford and with research across all areas increasingly benefitting from powerful computing it is important that we play our part in helping push this field forward and timely that we are able to do so within this partnership.”

The £3.7m awarded to the Consortium for the Centre for Innovation will draw upon the knowledge and expertise available to it across the Consortium members to explore and exploit opportunities for the application of High Performance Computing to scientific and industrial research areas. Simulation and computation enabled by High Performance Computing are globally held as comprising the “third pillar” of modern research practice, supporting both industrial and academic research endeavours, as well as providing a critical capability for the international competitiveness of the UK. This has been recognised by direct support for the development and implementation of a strategy for the national e-infrastructure by the Department for Business Innovation and Skills with an additional allocation of £165m in 2011/12.

The funding awarded by EPSRC is  directly  aligned to the goals of this strategic allocation, and therefore recognises the capabilities available within the e-Infrastructure South Consortium to take forward the Centre, as well as the potential to make a significant contribution to the national growth agenda. 

Professor Anne Trefethen, Director of the Oxford e-Research Centre, explains “The impact that a Centre like this can have is enormous. High Performance Computing provides tools that help scientists accelerate research and tackle previously insoluble problems. This in turn offers tremendous benefits to researchers in both academic and commercial situations alike. Working together using HPC offers significant benefits to both communities and can push science forward in new and exciting ways”

The award from EPSRC will allow two significant HPC systems to be procured by the Centre; a general architecture/x86 based system to be located at the University of Southampton and a large novel architecture/GPU system to be located at STFC’s Rutherford Appleton Laboratories. With a combined value of £2.8m the systems are projected to be installed by the end of March and available to consortium users and project partners soon after. The systems, projected to have a performance of 115TF and 250TF respectively will significantly enhance the HPC capabilities available to the e-Infrastructure South consortium and the region. 

In addition to its role to enhance infrastructural capability and  outreach to new users of HPC, the centre will also add value to both on-going e-infrastructure activities and research at the four institutions, as well as providing a route for collaboration on future activities that would lie beyond the means of any individual institution to provide. 

“Working together with our colleagues from across the consortium means we all benefit,“ says Professor Trefethen, “and gives us the chance to maximize the contribution that the Centre can make to science in the UK.”