The UK’s Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) and tech giants IBM have announced a new £210 million digital innovation centre, which will focus on advancing AI and quantum computing capabilities.
As part of a five-year programme, the new Hartree National Centre for Digital Innovation (HNCDI) will bring together expertise in those areas – with the aim of providing the public sector and industry with the facilities to conduct “innovative research”.
Wider objectives include finding practical digital solutions for UK industry, maximising technologies, providing training and skills, and supporting investment in emerging technologies.
Based within the STFC’s existing Hartree Centre in Liverpool City Region, the centre and its work will receive £172 million in investment from the UK government, through UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), across the five-year timeframe. IBM will also contribute £38 million in funding.
Dario Gil, Senior Vice President and Director, IBM Research, commented: “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.”
Professor Mark Thomson, Executive Chair of STFC, added: “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.
“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.”
It’s hoped the HNCDI will help reduce potential barriers to innovation, such as a lack of infrastructure or skills gaps. The centre will also create new jobs – with 60 scientist posts expected to be made available, as well as opportunities for internships.
Work is currently underway to get the centre running as quickly as possible with cloud technologies, high performance computing and data analytics other areas set to be explored at the site.
The research conducted will benefit a range of sectors, including life sciences, and will see partnerships forged across the public sector, industry and academia, SMEs and start ups, and the government.
Amanda Solloway, the Science Minister, said of the new centre: “Artificial intelligence and quantum computing have the potential to revolutionise everything from the way we travel to the way we shop.
“They are exactly the kind of fields I want the UK to be leading in, and this new centre in the north west is a big step towards that.
“Thanks to this fantastic new partnership with IBM, British businesses will have access to the kind of infrastructure and expertise that will help them boost innovation and grow the economy – essential as we build back better from the pandemic.”