The programme aims at helping the British public sector and industry access cutting-edge computing for taking up innovative research


The HNCDI programme will be hosted within STFC’s Daresbury Laboratory. (Credit: UKRI)

The UK government in collaboration with IBM has launched the £210m Hartree National Centre for Digital Innovation (HNCDI) programme to expedite discovery and innovation with artificial intelligence (AI) and quantum computing.

The five-year programme is aimed at providing the British public sector and industry access to cutting-edge computing for undertaking innovative research.

The British government, through the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), will invest £172m over five years with a supporting contribution of £38m from IBM.

HNCDI will support businesses and the public sector by cutting down the risk of exploring and implementing innovative new digital technologies. This will be made possible by breaking down practical hurdles to innovation that include infrastructure access or gaps in digital skills within organisations, said IBM.

In this connection, IBM will collaborate with the UK’s Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) within the latter’s Daresbury Laboratory in the Liverpool City Region.

UK Science Minister Amanda Solloway said: “Artificial intelligence and quantum computing have the potential to revolutionise everything from the way we travel to the way we shop.

“They are exactly the kind of fields I want the UK to be leading in, and this new centre in the northwest is a big step towards that.

“Thanks to this fantastic new partnership with IBM, British businesses will have access to the kind of infrastructure and expertise that will help them boost innovation and grow the economy – essential as we build back better from the pandemic.”

The HNCDI programme will provide vacancies for an additional 60 scientists along with further interns and students, who will get to gain hands-on experience, said the UKRI.

By applying AI, quantum computing, high-performance computing and data analytics, and cloud technologies, the programme will help in developing innovative solutions at an accelerated pace for addressing industry challenges. The sectors covered by the programme include materials development, environmental sustainability, life sciences, and manufacturing.

Apart from quantum computing, scientists engaged in the HNCDI programme will get access to a portfolio of IBM commercial and emerging AI technologies. According to IBM, the technologies are focused on materials design, asset management, scaling and automation, supply chain, and also trusted AI.

IBM Research senior vice president and director Dario Gil said: “The world is facing grand challenges which demand a different approach towards science in computing, including AI and quantum computing, to engage a broad community across industry, government, and academia to accelerate discovery in science and business.

“This partnership establishes our first Discovery Accelerator in Europe driven by our two UK-based IBM Research locations in Hursley and Daresbury as they contribute to our global mission of building discovery-driven communities around the world.”