22 Jun 2022

Guest Blog from IBM: Accelerating discovery with HPC, AI and Quantum

Author: David HewittDirector - Cloud Platform, IBM UK & Ireland

Earlier this month during London Tech Week, the UK Government launched its new Digital Strategy. Earlier this year, they launched the ‘Future of Compute’ review. Later this year the UK Quantum Strategy is due to be published.

The mission is clear: make the UK a global Science and Tech superpower.

To achieve this bold assignment, our strategy for provision of high-end technology needs a fresh approach. HPC, quantum, and leading AI technologies are traditionally out of reach to the masses, instead limited to a handful of academic institutions, governments, and global technology firms. If our nation is to become a superpower, we must bring a renewed togetherness to the problem statement.

We’re at a moment in time where technology is poised to reshape just about every industry, field of study — and even society itself. Across the fields of HPC, quantum computing, and AI, we’ve seen massive advancements in recent years. In 2021, more than 38,000 UK tech firms were incorporated. Imagine if they all had access to HPC or quantum computing resources. Imagine the scale. Imagine the innovation.

AI has emerged as a driving force behind countless automated business decisions every second. HPC and quantum computing have evolved from theoretical concepts discussed at academic conferences to a field of study that has the potential to upend industries the world over.

Separately, these three technologies are producing new solutions to problems that are changing the world every day. But when we’re able to leverage some of them, or all three together, in new ways, the potential for discovering new materials, finding novel drugs and new uses for existing ones, solving science’s hardest problems, and myriad other revelations, will be unlike anything we’ve seen before.

Back to our quest for equality.

There are 3 million people employed in the UK’s digital tech economy. How do we deliver a portion of high-end tech to our nation’s innovators as seamlessly as we deliver hamburgers at the drive-thru? The solution is obvious, and we’ve already created it.

The term with so many interpretations that it has lost any single meaningful definition: Cloud. Remember when the only way to provide file and print services was to build your own IT infrastructure? Not many start-ups could afford a server let alone a data centre, technology services had to be done on a shoestring until a steady revenue stream was established. Then Cloud came along. Small and Medium Enterprises could access the same services as their bigger competitors.

While Cloud has now established itself as the delivery vehicle for common Enterprise services, we are in danger of seeing this as the full movie and not the first act. It’s time we looked to the second act, the delivery of complex services through Cloud – HPC, quantum, and AI.

With the innovations on the horizon through these computing revolutions, we suspect that we’ll be able to accelerate discoveries up to exponentially faster with decreasing total cost than they’ve been done in the past. This will allow us to help uncover breakthroughs that will affect everything from our daily lives to corporate innovation and government policymaking.

We’ve started considering an even brighter future, where all three of these revolutions can work together to create something even more astounding. What can be achieved with an AI algorithm that has the reach of the entire cloud behind it, as well as the processing ability that quantum computing could unlock? What can be uncovered, and at what speed, when these three revolutions are working together? This is what we mean by “accelerated discovery,” and we believe that the combined progress of these three fields of computing will shape the world like few things have before.

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