Goverment IT News

UK Donates Skills – Not Cash – For EU Supercomputer Plan

The EU initiative will allow sharing of supercomputers across Europe, but the UK is only donating “resources and expertise”

The UK is one of 20 European countries contributing to a newly launched supercomputing initiative, which will help to boost scientific research into areas such as climate change and drug development.

But while other countries are contributing substantial funds, the UK is joining the likes of Cyprus and Bulgaria in only donating “expertise and resources”.

Officially launched in Barcelona this week, the Partnership for Advanced Computing in Europe (PRACE) project aims to provide access to supercomputing technology to researchers across the region. The scheme is being funded by contributions of €100 million (£82m) each by Spain, France, Italy and Germany over the next five years. The EC is also contributing around €70 million (£58m) via the EU’s 7th Research Framework Programme.

Efficient Solar Cells

The scheme should make it easier for scientists to get access to supercomputing systems in other countries. The EU believes this could help to speed up projects such as the development of more efficient solar cells or how drugs interact in the body.

“I warmly welcome the launch of the PRACE supercomputer infrastructure as scientific computing is a key driver for the development of modern science and technology and for addressing the major challenges of our time, like climate change, energy saving and the aging population,” said Commission vice-president for the Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes.

The iniative should give researchers from across Europe access to compute power equivalent to more than 100,000 of today’s fastest PCs, the EC stated. The UK is among a group of 16 countries who will also be providing “resources and expertise” to the project but is not among the lead contributors providing significant funds.

The UK’s Technology Strategy Board was contacted for comment on why the UK was not providing funds for the project, when the likes of Spain and Italy were able to, but did not reply in time for this article. The TSB was set up in 2007 and describes its mission “to stimulate technology-enabled innovation in the areas which offer the greatest scope for boosting UK growth and productivity”.

JUGENE : Fastest In Europe

The PRACE scheme should be up and running by the 1 August 2010. The first supercomputing system being made available is the JUGENE system in Julich, Germany. The system is the fastest in Europe and the fifth fastest in the world, according to the EC. More super computers will join the scheme from 2011.

Last year, the previous government announced funding for supercomputing facility in Wales. The £44.27 million facility is a joint project between the Universities of Swansea and Cardiff and will concentrate on image processing, animation, 3D visualisation, data mining and simulations.

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