A new artificial intelligence and quantum computing centre has been launched in North West England, thanks to a £210 million investment from the government and IBM to help cement the UK’s status as a science superpower.
The Hartree National Centre for Digital Innovation (HNCDI), based at the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s (STFC) 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 world-leading expertise in artificial intelligence (AI) and quantum computing to support the application of the cutting-edge 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 government will invest £172 million over 5 years through UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), with an additional £38 million being invested by IBM. £28 million of the government’s investment will be in the first year.
Science Minister Amanda Solloway said: 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 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, Senior Vice President and Director, IBM Research said: 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 2 UK-based IBM Research locations in Hursley and Daresbury as they contribute to our global mission of building discovery-driven communities around the world.
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 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), public sector, and government.
Professor Mark Thomson, Executive Chair of STFC said: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.
Steve Rotheram, Metro Mayor of the Liverpool City Region, said:Our region is already home to world class digital infrastructure, from the Hartree Supercomputer in Halton to our transatlantic internet cables in Southport, but I want to make sure we’re the most connected region anywhere in the country.
Trains, docks and canals helped us become the gateway to the First Industrial Revolution, but today our strengths in digital and advanced computing can make us leaders in the Fourth.
Combining our existing digital assets with the new 212km ultrafast full-fibre network we are building across the city region, we will be able to attract jobs, opportunities and investment from around the country and further afield – like we’re seeing with the HNCDI. I’m sure they’ll be the first of many new digital jobs and companies that are picking the Liverpool City Region to do business.