Official launch of High Performance Computing Wales

July 12, 2010

The Minister for the Economy and Transport, Ieuan Wyn Jones, and the Deputy Skills Minister, Leslie Griffiths today announced a £40 million funding package for HPC Wales – a pan-Wales development that represents a major advance for supercomputing in Wales.

As the biggest and most ambitious initiative of its kind in Europe, HPC Wales addresses the fast changing needs of the diverse and growing group of businesses, industry partners and public sector bodies who work on collaborative research projects with the higher education institutions (HEIs) in Wales.

Ieuan Wyn Jones, Minister for the Economy and Transport, said HPC Wales would play a key role in delivering Economic Renewal – a New Direction announced last week.

“One key objective of ERP is to adjust our £240m economic development budget so that it’s focused more on developing the right skills for our workforce and to encourage world-class research and development – which mirror the objectives of HPC Wales.”

“The scale of the project is ambitious and will reach all four corners of Wales,” said Lesley Griffiths, Deputy Minister for Science, Innovation and Skills with the Welsh Assembly Government.

“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.

“The distributed nature and scale of the project, plus the open access to business, makes it unique in its scale, nature and ambition.”

The cutting-edge computing facilities will be available for use by businesses working independently or in collaboration with academics and will establish Wales as a key international centre for specialist computational research.

The five-year transformational ICT-based programme is designed to build on the valuable resources, knowledge, skills and expertise in Wales; with Aberystwyth, Bangor and Glamorgan Universities, University of Wales Alliance Universities and Technium business innovation centres around Wales connected to two main computer ‘hubs’ in Cardiff and Swansea University.

Overtime, the advanced technologies deployed will be further developed to ensure that the high performance capacity and capabilities delivered keep pace with demand and continue to deliver a positive impact on the health and economic wealth of the nation.

Speaking ahead of the £40m funding announcement, Professor Ian Cluckie, Chair of HPC Wales’ Procurement Committee and Pro Vice Chancellor for Science and Engineering at Swansea University, explained: “Through a strategic partnership, HPC Wales will provide the enabling technology for all higher education institutions in Wales – including Swansea University – to deliver commercial advantage through research innovation, training, knowledge and skills transfer.”

Beneficiaries will include the small, medium and large sized companies active in the key growth areas such as digital economy, low carbon economy, health, biosciences, advanced engineering and manufacturing.

By way of example, collaborative projects are expected to range from software engineering through to the development of 3D visualisation technologies; and from the development of renewable energy sources from plants through to the growth of climate resistant crops.

Applications in health and biosciences are wide-ranging; from genomics through to surgical engineering and the use of nano technologies that can lead to the development of life-saving drugs.

The range of potential engineering and manufacturing applications is equally diverse; with strong collaborative links between academia and industry having been established over many years and proven strengths in the development of advanced materials, such as the composites used by the aerospace industry, as well as in simulation and imaging of innovative R&D-based products.

Professor Ian Cluckie concluded: “The focus of HPC Wales is on building and maintaining strong commercial-academic links that will deliver significant long term benefits to business, industry and the Welsh economy.”

HPC Wales will be managed by a charitable, not-for-profit organisation set up by the St David’s Day Group of Universities and the University of Wales Alliance. The Headquarters of the pan-Wales consortium will be located at Swansea University.