UK to invest $273 million into AI supercomputer

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The University of Bristol will build the supercomputer, called Isambard-AI after the 19th century British engineer Isambard Brunel

The U.K. government said Wednesday that it will invest £225 million ($273 million), into an AI supercomputer, underlining the country’s ambition to lead in the technology as it races to catch up to the U.S. and China.

The University of Bristol will build the supercomputer, called Isambard-AI after the 19th century British engineer Isambard Brunel. The announcement coincided with the beginning of the U.K.’s AI safety summit.

The U.K. government said Isambard-AI will be the most advanced computer in the country and once complete, it will be “10 times faster than the U.K.’s current quickest machine.” The computer will pack 5,448 GH200 Grace Hopper Superchips, powerful artificial intelligence chips made by U.S. semiconductor giant Nvidia, which specialises in high-performance computing applications.

HP Enterprise the US IT giant, will help build the computer, with aims to eventually connect it to a newly announced Cambridge supercomputer called Dawn. That computer, built by Dell and U.K. company StackPC, will be powered by over 1,000 Intel chips that use water-cooling to lessen power consumption. It is anticipated to start running in the next two months.

The U.K. government hopes the two combined supercomputers will achieve breakthroughs in fusion energy, health care and climate modelling.

The machines will be up and running starting in summer 2024, the government stated, and will help researchers analyse advanced artificial intelligence models to test safety features and drive breakthroughs in drug discovery and clean energy.

The government earlier earmarked £1 billion to invest in the semiconductor industry in an effort to secure the country’s chip supplies and lessen its dependence on East Asia for the most commercially important microchips.

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