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Software to improve UK's resilience to extreme events

A powerful computer system capable of revolutionising the UK’s ability to plan for extreme events, such as flooding and power outages, is being designed as part of a government scheme to increase the nation’s resiliency to extreme weather events. It is estimated that inadequate infrastructure costs the UK £2million a day, and extreme events can cost hundreds of millions more.

To make the nation’s vital systems more adaptable to such changing circumstances, the UK Government has invested £138million in a project called UKCRIC (UK Collaboratorium for Research in Infrastructure & Cities),  which will see state-of-the-art new facilities established at 11 universities.

These systems provide essential services such as energy, transport, digital communications, water supply, flood protection, and wastewater and solid waste collection, treatment and disposal.

As part of UKCRIC, The UK government has invested £8million in the Data and Analytics Facility for National Infrastructure (DAFNI). DAFNI is being designed and developed over the next four years by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) at its Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Didcot, Oxfordshire, and will provide access to massive secure data storage, fast computer performance and the next generation in systems visualisation.

DAFNI will provide new software to enable significant advances in infrastructure systems research creating unprecedented opportunities to transform infrastructure services and pave the way for a more sustainable future.

Professor Jim Hall from Oxford University, the principal investigator for the project, said: ‘DAFNI will put the UK in a unique position to analyse the infrastructure systems upon which we all depend, helping to improve performance and pinpoint vulnerabilities. The future of our economy, society, and environment depends on the right choices being made for energy and transport systems, digital communications, water supply and flood risk management. DAFNI will provide researchers and decision makers with unique capabilities to analyse system performance and make wise investments.’  

Working with partners, STFC will be leading the design and development of DAFNI software, hardware, and data system technology stacks, an integral secure infrastructure that includes the next generation National Infrastructure Database (NID), Modelling, Simulation, and Visualisation Facility (MSVF), and DAFNI compute infrastructure.

It will offer researchers three types of secure access to integrated NIDMSVF platform, including remote data and compute resource access and integration; DAFNI software toolbox; and direct access to integrated data and compute infrastructure capabilities.

‘It's great to work with STFC and our other university partners on this project, which is pushing the boundaries of the nation’s current large-scale computing capabilities. Over the coming years, we are going to be bringing together business, government bodies and research organisations to collaboratively deliver this unique national capability.’

Funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, which is providing £125million of support for UKCRIC, DAFNI will offer globally unique software which will allow researchers to study complex infrastructure systems in cities, such as sewage systems or transportation networks.

Dr Erica Yang, Head of Visual Analytics and Imaging Systems at STFC’s Scientific Computing Department (SCD) and STFC DAFNI project director, said: ‘SCD brings in a wealth of experience and expertise in delivering large-scale research infrastructure for major UK and international collaborations.’

‘By locating DAFNI at STFC’s Rutherford Appleton Laboratory and making massive value-added data and compute resources available, the UKCRIC community will benefit and exploit the well-established infrastructure development expertise of SCD’ Yang continued. ‘Working with the highly interdisciplinary community, the Department will become the nation’s data intensive science hub for infrastructure systems’ research, underpinning the sustainable growth and development of globally unique large-scale data-intensive analytics facility driven by the needs of leading UK academics and industrialists in the field.’

Work on DAFNI was initiated at the project’s official launch as stakeholders were invited to a joint DAFNI-Innovate UK organised launch event at the Future Cities Catapult in London, as part of the consultation process. This is a critical step in the project, as it will help to decide how DAFNI is designed and set up.

At the event, the project team discussed the benefits that DAFNI’s advanced capabilities will offer to the UK innovation and research community and began a year-long consultation with users from research, business, and policy. This consultation will focus on the best way to design and deliver DAFNI so it can deliver practical applications which best address the challenges faced by society.

Peter Oliver, the project sponsor within SCD, said: ‘DAFNI is a strategically important project for SCD and is an evolution from systems we’ve designed and built for climate and earth system sciences (JASMIN), Particle Physics (GridPP Tier1) and our activities in supporting STFC’s Facilities and Diamond Light Source. I’m proud to be the project sponsor for DAFNI in SCD, and I’m excited by the opportunity to work with the UKCRIC community.’

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