On Wednesday, the United Kingdom’s government announced a substantial investment of £225 million, equivalent to $273 million, in the development of an artificial intelligence supercomputer. This move underscores the nation’s commitment to establishing a leadership position in AI technology, as it endeavors to catch up with global leaders such as the United States and China.
The University of Bristol will be responsible for constructing this cutting-edge supercomputer, which is to be named Isambard-AI in honor of the renowned 19th-century British engineer Isambard Brunel. This announcement coincided with the commencement of the U.K.’s AI safety summit, hosted at Bletchley Park.
Isambard-AI, as indicated by the U.K. government, is poised to become the most advanced computer in the country. Once completed, it is anticipated to operate at a speed ten times greater than the current fastest computer in the U.K. The system will incorporate 5,448 GH200 Grace Hopper Superchips, potent AI chips developed by the leading U.S. semiconductor company Nvidia, known for its expertise in high-performance computing applications.
The construction of this supercomputer will be facilitated by Hewlett Packard Enterprise, a prominent American IT corporation, with the eventual aim of connecting it to the newly announced Cambridge supercomputer known as Dawn. The Dawn computer, engineered in collaboration between Dell and the U.K. company StackPC, will be powered by over 1,000 Intel chips utilizing water-cooling technology to enhance energy efficiency. It is expected to become operational within the next two months.
The U.K. government has high hopes that these combined supercomputers will play a pivotal role in advancing fusion energy research, improving healthcare capabilities, and enhancing climate modeling. These supercomputers are scheduled to be operational by the summer of 2024, according to the government, and will be instrumental in aiding researchers in the analysis of advanced AI models, conducting safety evaluations, and making significant strides in drug discovery and clean energy initiatives.
In a previous move, the government had allocated £1 billion to invest in the semiconductor industry, with the objective of securing the nation’s chip supply and diminishing its reliance on East Asia for critical microchips used in commercial applications.