HPE and Uni of Bristol to create UK’s most powerful AI supercomputer

A building part of the University of Bristol | HPE and Uni of Bristol to help create UK’s most powerful AI supercomputer

As part of the UK Government’s investment in a national AI Research Resource, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) and The University of Bristol have announced a collaboration on the UK’s fastest supercomputer boosted by £225m government funding.

The funding injection, announced at the government’s AI Safety Summit is part of a £300m package to create a new national Artificial Intelligence Research Resource (AIRR) for the country, potentially making the UK a world leader in AI.

The new supercomputer, Isambard-AI, designed with modern technologies to enhance AI-driven research is set to be ten times more powerful than the UK’s current fastest supercomputer. It is also expected to be among the most powerful in the world when it opens at the National Composites Centre (NCC) in the summer of 2024.

HPE is preparing to build and deliver the new system with the next-generation HPE Cray EX supercomputers and over 5,000 NVIDIA GH200 superchips. The advanced technologies and design are planned to see Isambard-AI reach up to 200 quadrillion calculations per second.

The new Bristol facility will be used by a wide range of organizations from across the UK to harness the power of AI – already the main driver of emerging technologies such as training large language models (LLMs), big data and robotics. The supercomputing facility will also play a vital role in important areas such as accelerating automated drug discovery and climate research. 

The Government’s newly announced Frontier AI Taskforce will have priority access to support its work and mitigate the risks posed by the most advanced forms of AI, including national security from the development of bioweapons and cyberattacks.

The resource will also support the work of the AI Safety Institute while it develops a program of research looking at the safety of frontier AI models and supports government policy with this analysis.

Michelle Donelan, UK secretary of state for science, innovation and technology, said: “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.

“This means giving Britain’s leading researchers and scientific talent access to the tools they need to delve into how this complicated technology works. That is why we are investing in building UK’s supercomputers, making sure we cement our place as a world-leader in AI safety.”

Professor Simon McIntosh-Smith, director of the Isambard National Research Facility at the University of Bristol, said: “It’s immensely exciting to be at the forefront of the AI revolution and to partner with industry leaders HPE and NVIDIA to rapidly build and deploy large-scale research computing infrastructure to create one of the most powerful supercomputers in the world.

“Isambard-AI will offer capacity never seen before in the UK for researchers and industry to harness the huge potential of AI in fields such as robotics, big data, climate research and drug discovery.”