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November 6, 2023

The University of Bristol Secures £225M Investment to Propel UK's AI Leadership

University of Bristol has clinched a remarkable £225 million portion of a monumental £300 million government investment

In a resounding move to establish the United Kingdom as a global AI powerhouse, the University of Bristol has been awarded a staggering £225 million out of a £300 million government investment. This groundbreaking funding paves the way for Isambard-AI, a revolutionary AI supercomputer.

The renowned Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) has been chosen as the supplier to deliver next-generation supercomputing technologies. Isambard-AI is set to grace the National Composites Centre in Bristol next summer and is poised to become the UK's most potent supercomputer. It will boast over 5,000 state-of-the-art NVIDIA GH200 superchips and an astounding processing capacity of 200 quadrillion calculations per second.

The unveiling of Isambard-AI coincided with the UK's AI Safety Summit, a gathering that brought together over 100 participants from academia, business, and politics to address the potential threat posed by "Frontier AI." This term, coined by the UK government, refers to AI models capable of performing diverse tasks and matching or surpassing today's most advanced models.

This substantial funding, revealed at the AI Safety Summit at Bletchley Park, is part of a comprehensive £300 million initiative to establish a new national Artificial Intelligence Research Resource (AIRR) for the country. Isambard-AI is expected to outperform the UK's current fastest supercomputer by tenfold, cementing its place among the most potent supercomputers worldwide upon its launch in the summer of 2024.

Isambard-AI is a monumental leap for researchers and industry professionals, offering unprecedented computing power in the UK. It promises to catalyze AI-driven advancements across various domains, including robotics, big data analytics, climate research, and drug discovery.

Built using the HPE Cray EX supercomputer, Isambard-AI features 5,448 NVIDIA GH200 Grace Hopper Superchips, a combination of NVIDIA's Arm-based Grace CPU and a Hopper-based GPU optimized for power efficiency and large-scale AI. It also incorporates the latest HPE Slingshot 11 interconnect and nearly 25 petabytes of storage using the Cray Clusterstor E1000, designed for AI workflows.

When in production, Isambard-AI will achieve well over 200 PetaFLOP/s using the Top500's Linpack benchmark and over 21 ExaFLOP/s of AI performance to accelerate large-scale AI training. This represents a tenfold improvement over the UK's next fastest system, allowing Isambard-AI to perform over 21 quintillion AI-optimized floating-point operations per second.

Isambard-AI also features advanced direct liquid-cooling capabilities for improved energy efficiency and reduced carbon footprint. It will be hosted in a self-cooled, self-contained data center, utilizing the HPE Performance Optimized Data Center (POD) and situated at the National Composites Centre (NCC) in Bristol.

HPE is also partnering with the University of Bristol to create a highly energy-efficient heat re-use model, using waste heat from Isambard-AI to heat local buildings, aligning with the UK Government's Net Zero carbon efficiency targets for 2030/2040.

The Government's new Frontier AI Taskforce will have priority access to support its work, mitigating risks posed by advanced AI, including national security concerns. The resource will also support the AI Safety Institute as it conducts research on the safety of frontier AI models and informs government policy.

Neil Hodgson Coyle
Neil Hodgson-Coyle
Editorial chief at TechNews180
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