Beyond borders: the international nature of advanced computing
Author: Professor Tom Rodden, Chief Scientific Adviser for DCMS
Advanced computing sits at the heart of global innovation and research. With each passing day, modern advanced computing is helping us tackle some of the biggest challenges facing the world. It is allowing us to model the impact of climate change, understand the transmission of super-viruses and create virtual versions of the real world to conduct research which is not physically possible.
From its applications to its hardware components, every aspect of compute technology is international in its nature. And so we must view compute through a global lens. The US has coined the phrase “to out-compete is to out-compute”. Never has this been more relevant. Compute pervades all aspects of science, and accessing and using advanced computing is an essential part of what it means to be a modern scientist.
To secure the UK’s status as a Science and Technology Superpower by 2030, having world-class strengths in compute is imperative. Only in this way will the UK be able to have a globally-competitive and innovative economy, tackle global societal challenges, power the development of key technologies such as AI and quantum, and remain a global leader in scientific research.
To achieve these goals, a targeted approach to compute is necessary. Historically, so much of computing innovation has been driven by the UK. It is one of the reasons we have one of the strongest digital economies in the world and there are big ambitions to build on the success to date.
The Government is committed to supporting science and technology research, with public spending on R&D set to increase to £20 billion by 2024-25. It is also supporting cutting-edge facilities like Hartree in Cheshire, which combines classical high performance computing with quantum computing and AI, and the Met Office, which is pairing specialist on-premise systems with cloud resources to model the climate and weather. However, the rapid rate of technological innovation and the accelerating demand for upgrades means that systems quickly become outdated and novel techniques such as machine learning and AI require different computational approaches.
Many countries are already testing, building or planning for exascale systems - the next generation of computing - and leaving the last decade of supercomputers behind. We need to ensure the UK’s computer processing capacity keeps pace with developments, reflects users needs and meets future demand.
Besides investing in domestic compute infrastructure, other countries are leveraging international partnerships to strengthen their compute ecosystem and to increase their international influence in science and innovation. For instance, Japan and France are collaborating on exploring new computing architectures, software development and skill building. Meanwhile, Australia and Singapore are collaborating to explore capability development in areas like green data centres. Advanced computing is a global endeavour and the UK should continue to play a leading international role working closely with others and reaping the benefits for all its users, including SMEs and startups.
The UK has a flourishing tech sector and strong expertise in specific areas of compute that can attract international partners, creating a virtuous cycle of innovation - the more knowledge and resources UK industry can access internationally, the more competitive, innovative and therefore sought-after it will become. Opportunities for UK industry to access international advanced computing systems already exist and we should support and encourage businesses to seize them.
The UK Government recognises the international nature of advanced computing and the role of international partnerships in delivering the UK’s ambitions, powering UK industry, and tackling the greatest challenges of our time. This is why it launched the Future of Compute review earlier this year, and it will ensure that the international dimension of this technology will constitute a key pillar in any future policy developments. The future of compute is international, now more than ever.
Future of Compute Week 2022
During this week we will deep-dive into a number of themes that if addressed could develop our large scale compute infrastructure to support the UK’s ambitions as a science and technology superpower. To find out more, including how to get involved, click the link below
Laura is techUK’s Head of Programme for Technology and Innovation.
She supports the application and expansion of emerging technologies, including Quantum Computing, High-Performance Computing, AR/VR/XR and Edge technologies, across the UK. As part of this, she works alongside techUK members and UK Government to champion long-term and sustainable innovation policy that will ensure the UK is a pioneer in science and technology
Before joining techUK, Laura worked internationally as a conference researcher and producer covering enterprise adoption of emerging technologies. This included being part of the strategic team at London Tech Week.
Laura has a degree in History (BA Hons) from Durham University, focussing on regional social history. Outside of work she loves reading, travelling and supporting rugby team St. Helens, where she is from.
Rory joined techUK in June 2023 after three years in the Civil Service on its Fast Stream leadership development programme.
During this time, Rory worked on the Government's response to Covid-19 (NHS Test & Trace), school funding strategy (Department for Education) and international climate and nature policy (Cabinet Office). He also tackled the social care crisis whilst on secondment to techUK's Health and Social Care programme in 2022.
Before this, Rory worked in the House of Commons and House of Lords alongside completing degrees in Political Economy and Global Politics.
Today, he is techUK's Programme Manager for Emerging Technologies, covering dozens of technologies including metaverse, drones, future materials, robotics, blockchain, space technologies, nanotechnology, gaming tech and Web3.0.