Dubbed Isambard-AI, the new AI Research Resource (AIRR) will act as a national facility to assist researchers and industry experts maximise the potential of AI as well as facilitate critical work into the potential and safe use of the technology
The UK government has selected the University of Bristol to host a £900m new supercomputer research facility to bolster pioneering artificial intelligence (AI) research and innovation in the country.
Dubbed Isambard-AI after Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the new AI Research Resource (AIRR) will act as a national facility to assist researchers and industry experts in maximising the potential of AI.
It is also aimed at facilitating critical work into the potential and safe use of the technology.
The AIRR cluster will be made up of thousands of advanced graphics processing units (GPUs) to train the large language models that are now at the forefront of AI research and development.
Science, Innovation and Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan said: “We are backing the future of British innovation, investing in a world-leading AI Research Resource in Bristol that will catalyse scientific discovery and keep the UK at the forefront of AI development.
“The Isambard-AI cluster will be one of the most powerful supercomputers in Europe, and will help industry experts and researchers harness the game-changing potential of AI, including through the mission-critical work of our Frontier AI Taskforce.”
Isambard-AI will also help to foster the UK’s next-generation compute infrastructure, in line with the recommendations of the independent Future of Compute Review.
Besides, the cluster is expected to significantly bolster the country’s computing capacity, enabling it to achieve AI ambitions.
The investment for the AIRR was announced in March 2023 as part of the UK’s commitment of nearly £3.5bn to advance the government’s goal of making the country a scientific and technological superpower.
Bristol also expects to install Isambard 3 supercomputer later this year.
Both Isambard 3 and Isambard-AI will be based at the National Composites Centre, in collaboration with the GW4 group of universities, an alliance made up of the Universities of Bath, Bristol, Cardiff and Exeter.
University of Bristol high-performance computing professor and project lead Simon Smith said: “We’re delighted to be chosen as the site to host the UK’s first ever Artificial Intelligence Research Resource.
“Isambard-AI will be one of the world’s first, large-scale, open AI supercomputers, and builds on our expertise designing and operating cutting-edge computational facilities, such as the incoming Isambard 3.”