UK’s most powerful supercomputer on show for Prime Minister

14 February 2022

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has visited the UK’s newest and most powerful supercomputer ARCHER2 during a tour of the University’s world-class data centre facilities.

The cutting-edge system – which is around 12 times more powerful than its predecessor – is hosted by EPCC, the University’s supercomputing centre.

During the visit Mr Johnson was shown how ARCHER2 – which is the fastest computer in the UK and the second largest of its kind in Europe – is modelling in detail how medicines interact with cells, is revealing how the northern Atlantic sea ice is responding to climate change, and is supporting Rolls Royce in developing more efficient aircraft engines.

World-class technology

ARCHER2 – which is now fully operational – can perform twenty million billion calculations a second. Its peak computing power is equivalent to around 250,000 modern laptops, making it 10 billion times faster than the first Cray supercomputer produced in 1964.

The £79 million system is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), both part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

It gives UK researchers world-class computing capabilities to support breakthroughs in areas such as drug development, climate modelling and the design of sustainable technologies and materials.

"It is exciting to see ARCHER2 coming online and the work that it is already supporting to help tackle some of the world’s most pressing challenges. Its location within the EPCC is testament to the University’s historic and sustained excellence in computer science and the work of Professor Mark Parsons and the whole team there. We have ambitious plans for supercomputing in Edinburgh - ARCHER2 is a significant step towards achieving them."

Professor Peter Mathieson, Principal and Vice-Chancellor, University of Edinburgh

Next generation

As part of the visit Mr Johnson was shown computer rooms built as part of the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal and designed to host the next generation of supercomputers, known as exascale systems.

Exascale computers will be one thousand times faster than ARCHER2 and will be capable of making one billion billion calculations every second. Because of this investment, Edinburgh is one of the few places in Europe able to host a computer of such a scale, experts say.

"ARCHER2 is an exciting and important component of the UK’s research and innovation system, providing world-leading computing capabilities to deliver the UK's fastest research computing for both our university-based researchers and their business partners. By allowing researchers to perform virtual experiments on this state-of-the-art system, ARCHER2 will catalyse and accelerate discovery-led research and the development of new applications for the benefit of all society."

Dame Professor Lynn Gladden, EPSRC Executive Chair

Innovative potential

"High-performance computing underpins a wide range of significant research and innovation across environmental science, from modelling the effects of climate change to calculating the properties of the Earth’s core. ARCHER2 will greatly increase the computational capacity we have at our disposal and will play an important role in supporting new scientific discoveries and innovations."

Professor Sir Duncan Wingham, NERC Executive Chair

"ARCHER2 represents a world-class supercomputing resource for the UK's high performance computing researchers and EPCC is delighted to be continuing to support them. It was a great pleasure to show the Prime Minister the system. It has taken a huge collaborative effort between EPCC, HPE Cray and UKRI to get to this point. We are very pleased that ARCHER2 is now delivering its full potential for innovative computational science in the UK."

Professor Mark Parsons, EPCC Director

Read more about ARCHER2, EPCC and supercomputing at the University:

Image: Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Professor Mark Parsons in front of ARCHER2 at EPCC's Advanced Computing Facility.

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Professor Mark Parsons at EPCC