The UK Government has become the first outside of the US to join the global Covid-19 high-performance computing consortium, which will give researchers and scientists access to the world’s largest and fastest supercomputers to perform complex calculations quickly.
Set up in response to the pandemic, the consortium brings together government, industry, and academic leaders, and has 40 members including IBM, Google, NASA and the US Department of Energy.
It has already supported nearly 60 research programmes, all running on high performance computing machines. These including one project run by London based AI start-up Kuano, which is using the facilities to gain insights from diseases similar to Covid-19, such as SARs, to help design a new drug to defeat the virus.
The move is aimed at accelerating UK coronavirus research, helping further treatments, knowledge and understanding of how the disease behaves through advanced modelling.
During a virtual meeting of science and technology ministers, the G7 nations set out a shared vision on tackling the pandemic. As a result, the UK committed to enhancing co-operation on shared Covid-19 research priority areas and launching a global partnership on artificial intelligence.
The UK’s access to the consortium will be led by UK Research & Innovation (UKRI). The consortium will also ensure that the UK’s other high performing computing facilities are contributing to the global effort against Covid-19, with the Met Office and UK Atomic Energy Authority also involved.
Parliamentary under secretary of state at the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy Amanda Solloway said: "Tackling coronavirus requires a joint and strong international effort and the very best minds in science and technology sharing their research and knowledge.
"By joining this consortium, our leading researchers will be able to access some of the most advanced computers in the world to speed up their research, gain access to new developments, and share the UK’s world-class computing technologies to find a solution to this virus."
Minister of state for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) John Whittingdale added: "The UK has a longstanding reputation for innovation so it is fantastic to see our researchers and scientists working with the world’s fastest supercomputers to accelerate the treatment, research and understanding of the coronavirus.
"We are determined to use the power of data and emerging technologies to improve people’s lives and the UK will make a vital contribution to the consortium."