Formal start of work at £30m Daresbury supercomputer centre

Hartree SCC team at the ground breaking ceremony

Ground has been broken on a £30m scheme to build a supercomputer centre in Daresbury.

The scheme, at the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s Daresbury Laboratory, is part of the Hartree Centre’s £210m National Centre for Digital Innovation (HNCDI), a £172m collaboration with IBM, which provides UK industry access to state-of-the-art digital technologies and expertise.

Once completed, the facility will host the latest in new supercomputing artificial intelligence (AI) and quantum technologies, with the potential for further expansion built in. This will allow the Hartree Centre to grow its capability in the future without the need for additional major construction.

Home to some of the UK’s most advanced technologies in AI and quantum computing technology, the Hartree Centre is one of the UK’s only supercomputing centres dedicated to supporting industry.

Located within the Sci-Tech Daresbury campus in the Liverpool City Region, it is providing businesses of all sizes access to advanced supercomputing technologies that are normally only available to academia and large scale industry.

This enables them to make important breakthroughs in discovery and innovation, reducing the time and cost of developing new technologies and products that will benefit our economy and society now and in the future.

Procurement is currently under way for the new, more powerful, high performance computing systems needed to support the Hartree Centre’s rapidly expanding supercomputing and AI activities.

This will enable the Hartree Centre to expand its capacity and deliver an even better quality, more flexible and secure service to businesses.

The Hartree Centre anticipates that the first system to be installed in the new building will have a performance capability of between 80-100 petaflops (up to 100 trillion calculations per second). This will make the new system 20 to 25 times faster than the current platform.

Supporting businesses and industry from across the public and private sector, the centre will continue to support discovery-led research across a vast range of industrial sectors to help tackle some of our most pressing global challenges. These areas include: Materials; life sciences; environment; and manufacturing.

Importantly, the new facility will ensure that the Hartree Centre can continue to support UK industry’s commitments towards net zero, which includes enabling the development of more efficient manufacturing processes, more efficient transport through better battery design, more environmentally friendly personal care product design, and more energy-efficient logistics for distribution challenges.

With environmental sustainability in mind, significant efforts throughout the whole design and building process of the new supercomputing centre aim to minimise its carbon footprint and maximise efficiency.

This includes compliance with the latest standards on energy consumption, with a strong emphasis on replacing inefficient buildings and ageing computer hardware, to more efficient cooling systems.

As a result, the new facility will use less electricity per unit of performance than its current systems, and will enable fewer interruptions to service when essential maintenance is required.

STFC’s Prof Kate Royse, director of the Hartree Centre, said: “This is an incredibly exciting day for the Hartree Centre, and we are fully committed to providing an environment where UK science and businesses can be at the very forefront of global research and development in the very latest digital technologies.

“Providing access to technologies, such as AI and quantum computing, enables businesses to increase productivity and achieve success, to the benefit of our economy, both here in the North West and nationally.”

Paul Vernon, head of STFC’s Daresbury Laboratory, said: “Our new Supercomputing Centre is a significant development in our mission to provide UK businesses with access to the vital infrastructure and expertise that will help them to grow and succeed on a global scale.

“It will help UK businesses drive productivity, accelerating growth and job creation through the use of advanced digital technologies.”

Manchester-based Russell WBHO is contracted to deliver the new supercomputing centre at Daresbury Laboratory where work is currently under way at the 6.2-acre site. It is working with data centre specialist M&E consultants Sudlows to deliver the project, as well as with project management consultant Arcadis, architect AEW, structural engineers Healy Consulting, and environmental consultancy E3P.

Nick Sunderland, commercial director at Russell WBHO, said: “It’s great to have everyone together on site to mark the official ‘groundbreaking’.

“A project of this complexity requires close collaboration of all partners and stakeholders and the highly specialist team we’ve put together is committed to exceeding client expectations throughout.”