High Performance Computing Wales

HPC Wales logo

In July 2010, the Welsh Assembly Government announced the funding of High Performance Computing Wales (HPC Wales), a £40m major infrastructure project to provide an advanced supercomputing facility in Wales. It was first announced by the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills in December 2009; the project survived the change of government but lost £4m funding. The project is funded from the following sources:

  • £19m from ERDF and ESF European funds channelled through WEFO
  • £10m from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS)
  • £4m from collaborating institutions
  • £5m from the Welsh Assembly Government/HEFCW
  • £2m private sector and research income

The £40m investment will cover infrastructure development, equipment, software research, management and operational costs over the first five years to 2015, after which HPC Wales will become self-supporting and sustainable.

HPC Wales consists of three elements:

  • World-class HPC capacity: the purchase of large-scale super computing technology to complement existing facilities in Swansea and Cardiff with high-speed links to satellite spokes in the five major research universities in Wales. The network will link to business innovation centres and research centres in Wales and globally.
  • HPC Institute: this will deliver advanced research, focused on strategic partnerships in both academic and private sector, with priority given to research with direct economic impacts and benefits.
  • HPC Academy: the sustainability of the Research Institute will depend upon the ability to develop technical research skills and a pipeline of talent i.e. capability. The Academy will develop HPC skills training and will be open to researchers in Welsh SMEs and researchers in universities working collaboratively with businesses.

The main hubs for HPC Wales will be in Cardiff and Swansea, linked to spokes at Aberystwyth, Bangor and Glamorgan Universities, University of Wales Alliance Universities (including UWIC) and the Technium business innovation centres around Wales.

Lesley Griffiths, the Welsh Assembly Government’s deputy minister for science, innovation and skills, said at the project announcement:

The scale of the project is ambitious and will reach all four corners of Wales. It will speed up innovation from research carried out in Welsh Universities through to commercial-market ready products. It will also have a major impact on high-level skills development and training and put Wales right up there as an international player in the world of computational research.

Fujitsu were named as successful bidder for HPC Wales in March 2011 (I had the pleasure of attending the official award of contract down at the National Assembly in Cardiff), with the aim of being fully operational before the end of 2011. One of the main differences between HPC Wales and other HPC facilities in the UK (including the National Grid Service, the UK academic computing research infrastructure) is that it is not just purely focused towards academic research. Due to its funding sources (particularly the European funding), the project has a focus of kickstarting the use of HPC in industry in Wales. The aim is to have a major impact on the economy, on business competitiveness, on innovation, skills development and job creation.

I am very excited about HPC Wales (and not just because it will eventually deliver 190 teraflop performance); the distributed nature and scale of the project, plus the open access to business, makes it unique in its scale, nature and ambition. I will be involved in HPC Wales on a number of levels: as a researcher who consumes significant computational resources; but also at a strategic level for how it can provide an infrastructure for attracting high-value R&D to Wales and facilitating collaboration between Welsh higher education institutions and industry. It should play a key role in WAG‘s Economic Renewal Programme, as well as being crucial infrastructure for Delivering a Digital Wales, its wide-ranging strategy to reflect the importance digital technologies now play in our lives, touching virtually every strand of public and private sector activity.

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