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UK to join Covid-19 High-Performance Computing consortium

UK becomes first country outside the US to join group enabling researchers and scientists to access top supercomputers to help their work on the coronavirus

The UK will join the Covid-19 High-Performance Computing (HPC) consortium, which gives researchers and scientists access to the world’s fastest and largest supercomputers in their work relating to the coronavirus.

The consortium was launched by the US, and its 40 members include IBM, the US Department of Energy, Google and Nasa. Almost 60 research projects have been carried out through the HPC resource made available by the initiative. The UK is the first country outside the US to join the group.

Projects running on the platform, which relate to furthering treatments, knowledge and understanding of how Covid-19 behaves through advanced modelling, include the work undertaken by London-based artificial intelligence (AI) startup Kuano, which is using the facilities to gain insights from diseases similar to Covid-19, such as SARS, with the aim of designing a new drug for the coronavirus.

The UK’s announcement was made during the G7 Science and Technology Ministerial, which was held virtually on 28 May. UK Research and Innovation will lead the country’s access to the consortium, which will also see contributions from other HPC facilities in the UK, such as the Met Office and the UK Atomic Energy Authority.

As well as the HPC project, the UK also announced a global AI partnership and was represented by science minister Amanda Solloway and media and data minister John Whittingdale.

“We are determined to use the power of data and emerging technologies to improve people’s lives and the UK will make a vital contribution to the consortium,” said Whittingdale.

The government has been calling on the data science community to develop data models that can help better understand the Covid-19 transmission rate and explore treatments. An example is the work between the NHS and Microsoft, Palantir and Google to improve data analysis around its anti-coronavirus efforts.

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