New Government Office for Science review outlines why the UK needs to invest in Supercomputing

On 20 September the Office of Government Science released its review of the UK’s large-scale computing ecosystem (LSC)

This report describes the LSC ecosystem – also referred to as High-performance computing (HPC), or supercomputing throughout the report - in the UK and explores how to build a world-class computing ecosystem comparative with other nations.

The report states that whilst the UK is a global leader in a number of related areas including in areas of software development, computational modelling, data analytics, cybersecurity and more, the UK’s large-scale computing infrastructure lags behind other major global economies and does not have a national HPC strategy compared to other leading nations

The report also highlights that with the prominent interconnection between HPC and other key emerging technologies where the UK is positioning itself as a leader, for example AI and notably Quantum, the lack of attention paid to HPC in the UK could also potentially hinder the UK’s dominance in these areas too.

As such, the report calls on Government to play a significant role in nurturing and supporting the UK HPC ecosystem both as a consumer and a funder. The most prominent recommendation in this report is to establish a team within Government to provide policy leadership of large-scale computing. This team would be responsible for developing a rolling long-term roadmap for large-scale computing.

From this report it is clear that investment in HPC is seen by the Office for Government Science as  crucial for the UK to become a world leader in research and development, and become a technology superpower. Without Government support in the existing ecosystem in the UK, and forging global partnerships around HPC, the report sees a potential  danger of the UK being left behind other leading nations.

This report also explores the current HPC landscape in the UK, compared to other international leaders. It finds that the UK lags internationally on HPC capacity, behind Japan, China, United States, and in Europe, Germany France and Italy. Indeed, The world’s fastest HPC system, ’Fugaku’ at the RIKEN Centre for Computational Science in Japan, has a benchmark performance of 442.0 petaflops, and is 22 times more powerful than the expected peak performance of ARCHER2 which is set to shortly replace  ARCHER as the UK’s National Supercomputing Service.

The report therefore makes it clear that the UK Government needs to play a key role in developing the UK’s HPC ecosystem. In doing so, the paper sets out seven key recommendations for UK Government

  1. Focus on national coordination: Establish a team within Government to provide policy leadership of large-scale computing.
  2. Continue to build leading-edge computing capability in the UK, as well as a diverse range of system architectures.
  3. Accessibility to HPC across industries The roadmap for computing should be designed to meet the diverse requirements of users and address barriers to accessibility
  4. Maintain status as a leader in software development: High-quality software is fundamental to realising the benefits of investments in computing. Software must be fit for purpose and be regularly tested, updated, and archived.
  5. Skills. There is an acute shortage of large-scale computing professionals, including system architects, data engineers, system operations professionals and software engineers
  6. Sustainable Computing: Computing facilities are large consumers of energy, and they can put significant demands on regional electrical grids.
  7. long-term roadmap for procurement could provide clarity to the UK computing sector, helping to encourage domestic investment. A strong domestic sector would strengthen the UK’s influence in shaping global hardware trends and standards

You can read the full report here.

As the Go Science review highlights, HPC will be a crucial technology for the UK in the coming years. techUK has already explored the role HPC can play in  enabling sustainable adoption of quantum, but  there is more to consider around large scale computing and its role in the UK’s digital future. techUK developing a campaign on HPC in 2022 to help address the challenges of building a world-leading HPC ecosystem in the UK, and showcasing the opportunity to the wider tech sector. We will also be exploring the crucial interconnection between HPC and other technologies such as quantum and AI. If you are working in HPC, or interested in the future of this technology in the UK, please reach out to get involved in techUK’s new campaign.


Laura Foster

Laura Foster

Programme Manager, Technology and Innovation, techUK

Laura is techUK’s Programme Manager for Technology and Innovation.

She supports the application and expansion of emerging technologies across business, including Geospatial Data, Quantum Computing, AR/VR/XR and Edge technologies.

Before joining techUK, Laura worked internationally in London, Singapore and across the United States 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.

[email protected]

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