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Investment in Big Data pays dividends for UK in the shape of two major new facilities

A new cutting edge supercomputing facility and a strategic partnership between the Alan Turing institute and Intel are helping to secure the UK’s future in supercomputing and Big Data. 
 
In London, the newly opened Alan Turing Institute and Intel are forming a partnership to encourage innovation in high-performance computing (HPC) and big data analytics.
 
Named after the pioneering computer scientist, the Institute officially launched last week at its British Library headquarters. It’s mission is bringing leading experts in computer science, mathematics, statistics and systems engineering together for ground-breaking data science research and new business opportunities, covering the whole spectrum of data science, from theoretical research to engineering software platforms for external users.
 
"Government is committed to ensuring the UK is the best place in Europe to innovate, patent new ideas and start a business,” said MP Joe Johnson. “Big data offers huge potential for innovation, which is why government invested £42m in The Alan Turing Institute to secure the UK's future in this important field.” 
 
Over the next few months the Institute will hold data summits to explore topics including High Value Manufacturing and Future Cities. Five universities are on board, as well as the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). 
 
The new facility’s Director Professor Andrew Blake said at the launch: “We are used to hearing about big data, but The Alan Turing Institute is about more than that. It is about data science, analysing that data, and gaining new understanding that finally leads to decisions and actions. What an amazing opportunity this is, to create a National Institute addressing this most pressing of challenges – how can we, in the UK, be masters of the internet age?”
 
Government plans to improve the UK IT infrastructure also received a boost with the announcement of another major new facility, the POWER Acceleration And Design Centre (PADC). It’s a  collaboration between NVIDIA, IBM, Mellanox and the Science And Technology Facilities Council (STFC) Hartree Centre, where it will be hosted.
 
The centre will focus on improving modelling, simulation and big data capabilities on IBM’s OpenPOWER systems.
 
The Government recently announced £113m investment and expansion of the Hartree Centre with the aim of using ‘cognitive computing’ to drive economic growth on a national scale.
 
Its ambition is to enable UK businesses to easily use modelling, simulation and Big Data analytics to develop better products and services that will boost productivity, drive growth and create jobs.
 
“The goal is simple – to boost productivity, drive growth and create jobs,” said Dr Peter Allan, STFC Hartree Centre acting director. The PADC will help industry and academia take advantage of IBM and NVIDIA’s technological leadership in supercomputing and the Hartree Centre’s expertise and experience in delivering solutions to real-world problems.”
 
The aim is to achieve the highest levels of performance by exploiting all components of the system, this includes architecture, memory, storage, interconnects and integration. The centre will host a POWER-based system with the Tesla Accelerated Computing Platform, which consists of NVIDIA Tesla GPU accelerations and enabling software.
 
The Tesla platform was designed for energy-efficient performance on today's most difficult computational challenges, and will ultimately play an important role in enabling the industry to achieve exascale computing levels.
 
The new centre is also designed to bring together an ecosystem of computational scientists and engineers with expertise in specific domains such as chemistry, fluid dynamics, structures, and acoustics.
 
"This new POWER Acceleration and Design Center demonstrates IBM's commitment to expanding the software ecosystem around OpenPOWER. The centre extends and complements the Acceleration and Design Centers in Julich, Germany, and Montpellier, France, to a new class of industrial and commercial organizations," said Dave Turek, IBM's Vice President of High Performance Computing. 
 
"To that end, establishing it at the Hartree Center is in recognition of its successful engagement with industry and its record in commercializing technological developments.”
 
The UK has an enormous opportunity to reap major benefit as it evolves into a data-enabled economy, but must implement best practice now, according to a new report from the Royal Academy of Engineering and the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET).
 
Harnessing the power of data analytics – Big Data – and linking key datasets reliably in real time has immense potential to drive innovation and enhance UK productivity, which is currently lagging 17% behind the average across the G7 economies, according to Connecting data: driving productivity and innovation. 
 
The UK has been recognised for its world leading HPC-based research in particle physics, nuclear physics, astronomy and cosmology. To reap the full benefits of HPC and Big Data, this success needs to filter down to the wider economy, and faster progress needs to be made to ensure rigorous performance and resilience.  Only then will we really see the start of a dramatic transformation that will impact both working and private lives.
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