Supercomputing Technology– A major investment in the future of the Welsh economy

Posted on 12 July 2010

Professor Kelvin Donne and Swansea Metropolitan University students

The University of Wales is delighted to be a key driver in a major project announced today, (July12, 2010), which represents a great advance for supercomputing in Wales and is set to deliver significant long term benefits to business, industry and the Welsh economy.

High Performance Computing Wales (HPC Wales) is a £40million five year project to give businesses and universities involved in commercially focused research across Wales, access to the most advanced and evolving computing technology available.

HPC Wales will invest in state-of-the-art computing technology, infrastructure and facilities on a pan-Wales basis, high level skills development and training and provide tailor made support services to business.

The availability of this technology is set to have a major impact on the economy, on business competitiveness, on innovation, high value R&D in higher education institutions and skills development. It is set to create more than 400 jobs across key industry sectors.

With support of £24 million from the Welsh Assembly Government, including from the EU Convergence programmes and £10m from the UK Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), HPC Wales will give Wales a supercomputing capacity and network at a scale not attempted anywhere else in the UK or Europe.

High performance computing technology has the capacity to handle and analyse massive amounts of data at high speed. Tasks that can take months using normal computers can be done in days or even minutes. It is used to model and solve highly complex problems across a range of high value sectors.

Uses are diverse and examples include facial reconstruction modelling, animated graphics, fluid dynamic calculations, nuclear energy research, petroleum exploration, car crash simulations, airflows over aircraft wings, data mining and storage and visualisation.

Ieuan Wyn Jones, Minister for the Economy and Transport, said HPC Wales would play a key role in delivering Economic Renewal – a New Direction announced last week:

“One key objective of ERP is to adjust our £240m economic development budget so that it's focused more on developing the right skills for our workforce and to encourage world-class research and development – which mirror the objectives of HPC Wales.”

“The scale of the project is ambitious and will reach all four corners of Wales,” said Lesley Griffiths, Deputy Minister for Science, Innovation and Skills with the Welsh Assembly Government.

“It will speed up innovation from research carried out in Welsh Universities through to commercial market ready products. It will also have a major impact on high level skills development and training and put Wales right up there as an international player in the world of computational research.

“The distributed nature and scale of the project, plus the open access to business, makes it unique in its scale, nature and ambition.”

The cutting-edge computing facilities will be available for use by businesses working independently or in collaboration with academics and will establish Wales as a key international centre for specialist computational research.

Funding for the project comes from the following :
• £19m from ERDF and ESF European funds channelled through WEFO.
• £10m from the UK Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS).
• £4m from collaborating institutions.
• £5m from the Welsh Assembly Government/ HEFCW
• £2m private sector and research income

The £40m investment will cover infrastructure development, equipment, software research, management and operational costs over the first five year to 2015 when HPC Wales will become self supporting and sustainable.

HPC Wales consists of three elements: investment in high performance computing equipment, infrastructure and pan-Wales distribution networks ; a training academy to develop high performance computing skills, and an institute to provide high level technical services to support research and economic activities.

The main computer hubs for HPC Wales will be in Cardiff and Swansea, linked to spokes at University of Wales Alliance Universities, Aberystwyth, Bangor and Glamorgan Universities and Technium business innovation centres around Wales.

HPC Wales will be managed by a charitable, not-for-profit organisation set up by the University of Wales Alliance and St David’s Day Group of Universities.

More than 100 innovation collaborative projects between universities and industry have already been identified that would benefit from HPC technology including animation projects. University of Wales Alliance Chair, Professor Kelvin Donne, from Swansea Metropolitan University's Faculty of Applied Design and Engineering will greatly benefit from the HPC facility:

"The new technology will be able to produce high-speed rendering using industry standard software which will greatly enhance the Faculty’s support for existing enterprises in the regional cluster. The HPC will also benefit new animation and games graduates who aspire to establish their own companies but lack the infrastructure to compete in the professional marketplace."

Other planned projects range from modelling and simulating medical implants to analysing satellite images for monitoring environmental change. In the vanguard will be projects that impact on the Welsh Assembly’s priority industry sectors.


For more information contact: Shan Ekin-Wood, Press Office, Welsh Assembly Government, Tel 02920 898636

Notes to Editors:

The University of Wales Alliance includes the University of Wales; Swansea Metropolitan University; University of Wales Newport; Glyndŵr University and the newly formed University of Wales Trinity Saint David.

The St David’s Day Group comprises Universities of Cardiff, Swansea, Bangor, Aberystwyth, Glamorgan.

High Performance Computing:

High Performance Computing refers to any computational activity requiring more that a single computer to execute a task. Supercomputers and computer clusters are used to solve advanced computation problems and are employed for specialized applications.

Major applications include; Data storage and analysis; Data mining; Simulations; Modelling; Software development; Visualisation of complex data ;Rapid mathematical calculations.

Academic expertise
HPC Wales is already opening up new International linkages and bringing new expertise into Wales. Glyndwr University has already arranged the appointment of two new visiting professors:

Prof Luciano Tarricone, of the University of Salento in Italy), a computational electromagnetics specialist, who has focused on the application of high performance computing to this field and has published several books on it.

Prof Terry Hewitt, a distinguished HPC expert, formerly at the University of Manchester.


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