IBM and STFC launch £210mn centre to create jobs with AI, quantum compute - The EE

IBM and STFC launch £210mn centre to create jobs with AI, quantum compute

Dario Gil of IBM Research

A new artificial intelligence (AI) and quantum computing centre has been launched in North West England, thanks to a £210 million (€244.91 million) investment from the UK Government and IBM.

The Hartree National Centre for Digital Innovation (HNCDI), based at the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC)’s Daresbury Laboratory in the Liverpool City Region, will create vacancies for an additional 60 scientists and opportunities for students to gain invaluable hands-on experience.

The centre a partnership between STFC and IBM will bring together expertise in artificial intelligence (AI) and quantum computing to support the application of these technologies in industry and the public sector.

Possible industry applications of quantum computing include optimising complex logistics such as picking and packing orders in large warehouses for supermarkets; traffic routing; energy distribution; improving design and manufacturing processes across automotive sectors.

The UK government will invest £172 million (€200.59 million) over five years through UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), with an additional £38 million (€44.32 million) being invested by IBM. In all, £28 million (€32.65 million) of the Government’s investment will be in the first year.

Science minister Amanda Solloway says, “Artificial intelligence and quantum computing have the potential to revolutionise everything from the way we travel to the way we shop. This fantastic new partnership with IBM will not only help businesses get ready for the future of computing, but create 60 jobs in the region boosting innovation and growing the economy as we build back better from the pandemic.”

The HNCDI will make cutting-edge technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and quantum computing more accessible to businesses and public sector organisations.

As well as breaking down practical barriers to using new technologies, for example by providing access to equipment and infrastructure, the team of experts at HNCDI will also provide training and support to make sure the UK is at the forefront of the next generation of computing.

Dario Gil, SVP and director, IBM Research comments,“The world is facing grand challenges which demand a different approach towards science in computing, including AI and quantum computing, to engage a broad community across industry, government, and academia to accelerate discovery in science and business.

“This partnership establishes our first Discovery Accelerator in Europe driven by our two UK-based IBM Research locations in Hursley and Daresbury as they contribute to our global mission of building discovery-driven communities around the world,” Gil adds. 

The technologies that have transformed our lives the building blocks of modern computers, the mobile phone, the laser, the MRI scanner are all products of quantum science. This involves harnessing the unique ways that light and matter behave at tiny atomic or subatomic levels.

A new generation of quantum technologies exploit breakthroughs in the way that we are able to precisely manipulate and measure these special properties, to engineer quantum devices like sensors and computers with dramatically enhanced functionality and performance.

The centre will work across sectors including materials, life sciences, environment and manufacturing. This will include collaboration with academic and industrial research communities, including start-ups and SMEs, public sector, and government.

According to professor Mark Thomson, executive chair of STFC, “The HNCDI programme will foster discovery and provide a stimulus for industry innovation in the UK. By allowing industry to access a ready-made community of digital experts and cutting-edge technology, it will provide momentum for new ideas and solutions.”

Prof. Thomson concludes, “This programme has the potential to transform the way UK industry engages with AI and digital technologies, to the benefit of not just research communities but all of society.”

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