Sci-Tech Daresbury’s status as one of Europe’s leading homes for technology and innovation has been bolstered by the announcement of the Hartree National Centre for Digital Innovation (HNCDI) within the Liverpool City Region campus.

The £210 million investment over a five year programme will bring together world-leading expertise with innovative artificial intelligence (AI) and quantum computing technology, enabling the public and private sectors access to cutting edge computing that will aid breakthroughs in discovery and innovation.

The joint programme between the UK’s Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) and IBM, a leading global hybrid cloud and AI company, will expand to include 60 additional scientists, to join the 130 existing staff within the Hartree Centre, which is part of STFC’s Daresbury Laboratory at Sci-Tech Daresbury.

The Government, via UK Research and Innovation, has agreed to invest £172 million over five years, met with a £38 million in-kind contribution from IBM. In the first year alone, UKRI has invested £28million in the programme, which in addition to the 60 new scientists will create opportunities for interns and students to gain hands-on experience.

HNCDI will support UK businesses and the public sector by reducing the risk of exploring and adopting innovative new digital technologies, such as AI and quantum computing, by breaking down practical barriers to innovation such as access to infrastructure or digital skills gaps within their organisation.

The Centre will also host an IBM Discovery Accelerator to fundamentally advance the pace of discovery through the use of high performance computing on the hybrid cloud, AI and quantum computing technologies. This will be IBM’s second Discovery Accelerator, and its first outside the USA.

John Downes, Chief Executive Officer of Langtree and Chairman of Sci-Tech Daresbury, said: “The launching of the Hartree National Centre for Digital innovation at Sci-Tech Daresbury is not only a key milestone for our campus and the Liverpool City Region, but with the establishment of IBM’s Discovery Accelerator, for British and European science and technology as well.

“That the UK government and IBM have committed to locate this transformative national home for digital technologies within our campus reflects the importance of Sci-Tech Daresbury to the scientific community as well as the economic future of our country. It is also the next stage in the evolution of a very long-standing and fruitful partnership between STFC and IBM. It demonstrates the strength of the scientific expertise on the campus, as well as the depth of the collaborative and innovative community that is based here that makes it so attractive to international tech companies like IBM.

“The groundbreaking work that will take place at the Centre will allow increasingly ambitious projects to reach their potential, making our dynamic science and technology businesses even more competitive and resilient while helping to create better solutions for delivering public services. It will also attract some of the most innovative companies – not only in the North West, but also across the UK and internationally – to come and collaborate with the HNCDI. This will create valuable employment opportunities enabling the next generation of workers to develop lasting and rewarding careers in the scientific disciplines that will play such a crucial role in our futures.

“With our new developments Project Violet and Project Ultraviolet at different stages of progression, the launch of the Centre is further evidence what a very significant time of growth this is for Sci-Tech Daresbury, and signifies our commitment to putting the North West and the UK at the heart of the global innovation landscape.”

Alison Kennedy, Director of the STFC Hartree Centre, said: “With the funding of the HNCDI, the Hartree Centre begins a new chapter of its history with an exciting range of new activities, adding additional AI and quantum computing capability to our high performance computing and high performance data analytics expertise and deepening our collaboration with IBM Research. Our experiences of working with companies of all sizes, both on a national and regional level, with a range of funding schemes have allowed us to support campus companies and companies in Liverpool City Region, and we look to build on that experience for the wider benefit of the UK.

The programme will allow us to expand our SME support activities and add targeted training and skills development provision to our industry offering. The new funding will also facilitate the construction of an energy efficient data centre on the Sci-Tech Daresbury site and, in due course, allow us to replace our compute and data infrastructure and enhance the attractiveness of our nationally acclaimed advanced computing facilities for industry use.”

Paul Vernon, Executive Director of Business and Innovation at STFC: “The first of its kind in Europe, the HNCDI is a significant and exciting expansion on Daresbury Laboratory’s long-running collaboration with IBM. Together, through our combined expertise, we will help UK businesses drive productivity and accelerate growth and job creation through the use of advanced digital technologies. As we strengthen our commitment to breaking down barriers to technologies such as AI and quantum computing, we are enabling industry to reduce risk and carry out invaluable cutting-edge research, with long-term, tangible benefits to our economy and society.“

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 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.”

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.”