A NEW £3.15m supercomputer used by universities and industry researchers will be housed at Durham.

The new Northern Intensive Computing Environment (NICE) supercomputer, based at Durham University, will provide a shared and equally-funded facility for all of the N8 universities – giving researchers access to powerful systems to support ground-breaking work in areas ranging from Artificial Intelligence, energy storage and supply to therapeutic drug design.

The N8 Research Partnership is the collaboration body for the universities of Durham, Lancaster, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Sheffield, and York, and aims to maximise the impact of this research base to enable business innovation and societal transformation.

The leading North universities will again have access to a High Performance Computing facility following the announcement of a multi-million pound award from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

The N8 group previously operated Polaris, based at the University of Leeds, which was decommissioned in 2018. N8 subsequently established the Centre of Excellence in Computational Intensive Research (N8CIR) which will continue to work on the training and upskilling of N8 researchers while also being responsible for operating the new supercomputer.

The new service will use the same technology as that used in the current leading supercomputers in the world, but on a smaller scale. It was chosen to support experimental users and modellers using machine learning to analyse vast data sets and advance technology.

Durham University also hosts the Science and Technology Facilities Council DiRAC Memory Intensive Supercomputer (COSMA). NICE will be co-located with the DiRAC facility in Durham.

The Northern Echo:

Professor Colin Bain, Vice-Provost (Research) at Durham University, said: “Durham is already an international centre for supercomputer technology, hosting the COSMA supercomputer, which is at the forefront of research that is unravelling the mysteries of the universe.

“Our expertise in supercomputers is well-established and we are delighted to host the NICE service, on behalf of the N8 Research Partnership, which will underpin advances in the application of machine learning to the analysis of experimental data.”

Dr Annette Bramley, director of the N8 Research Partnership, said: “Many people across the N8 have worked very hard to bring this, one of its kind in the UK, high performance computing facility to the Northern Powerhouse and we are delighted with this award. High performance computing facilities play a key role in enabling multidisciplinary computational science, building software engineering expertise and supporting business-led innovation. By investing in NICE, we are ensuring the Northern Powerhouse has access to state of the art technologies to begin levelling-up the regional research and innovation infrastructure.”

N8’s previous computer Polaris saw a total of 90 companies working with N8 academics using N8 HPC for collaborative academic research, leading to the creation of more than 30 industry-related PhD studentships. N8 HPC also featured in 76 grant applications, with a value of over £60m, and 377 research papers published have referenced its use.