Chancellor launches assessment of cutting-edge computer technology in the UK at London Tech Week

  • Rishi Sunak launches Future of Compute Review, during opening speech at London Tech Week, as part of government’s new digital strategy

  • Leading AI expert, Professor Zoubin Ghahramani, will lead the review

  • The project will look at the UK’s computing needs, develop cost-effective solutions to ensure researchers and industry have what they need to be at the forefront, and deliver a long-term plan for the UK

The evaluation will report to the Chancellor and the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. It is being launched as part of the government’s new digital strategy to be unveiled later today.

Speaking at the Queen Elizabeth II Center in London, Rishi Sunak said high-performance computing and cloud capabilities are vital to powering technologies of the future, such as artificial intelligence, and would be critical to productivity, prosperity and innovation of the UK. †

Advanced computing power — the large-scale processing power, memory and data storage used to tackle tasks beyond the capabilities of everyday computers — is an important part of our digital infrastructure and a building block for future capabilities.

It becomes essential for biology, chemistry, physics and almost every other field of research and can also increase business innovation by improving R&D and product design processes, driving economic growth and productivity.

The Finance Minister, Rishi Sunak, said:

From modeling the effects of climate change to driving discovery of new drugs and increasing business innovation, the possibilities of advanced computing are endless.

The UK is a global leader in innovation and this assessment will help us maintain that position – while embracing new technologies and the people who create them to drive our growth and productivity forward.

The Future of Compute Review, announced by the Chancellor during the Spring Statement, will contain recommendations to form the basis of a long-term plan for the government’s approach to computing.

It will be led by leading AI researcher, Professor Zoubin Ghahramani, Professor of Information Engineering at the University of Cambridge and Vice President of Research at Google AI and Director of Google Brain.

The UK’s ability to do the toughest science and help companies be even more competitive depends on more powerful computers. Advanced computing powers help us model incredibly complex systems, such as what’s happening to the climate and how we can stop the spread of pandemics.

Advanced computing power is fundamental to the UK’s national interest. This review will deliver a long-term plan for UK computing technology, keeping government, business and academia at the forefront of innovation and prepared to face the biggest challenges of this century.

I am delighted to lead this review and look forward to bringing my industry and research experience to bear on this important work.

Digital secretary Nadine Dorries added:

We’ve seen our most powerful computers accelerate vaccine development during the pandemic. But all the data generated in the coming years is meaningless without the capacity to process it.

This assessment will ensure that we have the advanced computing capabilities to keep the UK at the forefront of the most complex science and advanced technology to deliver major benefits to people and businesses.

Over the past decade, the type and use of computers has changed – and the UK’s capacity in this area is lagging behind the needs of our leading technology sector. To support the government’s Integrated Review ambition to make the UK a science and technology superpower, we need a focused approach to computing.

This assessment will therefore take into account the future computing needs of the UK at this crossroads of a new generation of computers.

More information

  • Zoubin Ghahramani FRS is Vice President of Research at Google, Professor of Information Engineering at the University of Cambridge and Fellow of St John’s College, Cambridge. Before joining Google, he was Chief Scientist and VP for AI at Uber. He was the founder of Cambridge Director of the Alan Turing Institute, the UK’s national institute for data science and AI, and founding Deputy Director of the Leverhulme Center for the Future of Intelligence. He co-founded Geometric Intelligence (which became Uber AI Labs) and has advised a number of AI and machine learning companies. In 2015, Zoubin was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society for his contributions to machine learning, and is the winner of the 2021 Royal Society Milner Award for outstanding achievement in computer science in Europe.

  • The goals of the assessment are:

i. Understand the UK’s computing needs over the next ten years.

ii. Develop cost-effective, forward-looking solutions to ensure that research users and industry have internationally competitive access to computers.

iii. Visualize the role of compute in delivering the Integrated Review and Science Superpower this decade.

  • The assessment is being launched as part of the government’s new digital strategy, unveiled today, which demonstrates the potential of digital technologies such as computers to foster business innovation and boost the UK’s international competitiveness.

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