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STFC receives government investment to fund cognitive computing

The UK Government is to spend £113 million on high performance computing to expand the data-centric cognitive computing research capabilities of the Science and Techology Facilities Council (STFC’s) Hartree Centre, through enhanced collaboration with IBM.

The investment, announced in the UK Government's Autumn Statement on 3 December is expected to give UK business a two-year head start over international competitors, according to Science Minister Greg Clark.

IBM has been developing cognitive computing technology for a number of years with its Watson system that can learn dynamically through repeated use, tracking feedback from users. In November this year, two UK universities announced they would be teaching cognitive computing based on Watson technology.

The STFC Hartree Centre is part of the STFC Daresbury Laboratory and located within the Sci-Tech Daresbury science and innovation campus. It was set up to drive growth and innovation between science and industry.

The Hartree Centre is an industrial gateway to high performance computing (HPC) and simulation technology. It is home to the UK’s most powerful supercomputer dedicated to the development, deployment and demonstration of new software, enabling new HPC collaborations that promote UK economic growth.

Cognitive computing systems ‘learn’ in similar ways to human development. The goal is to enable not only scientists, but doctors, bankers, retailers and others to extract the full value of their data and thus make better, more accurate and ultimately quicker decisions and discoveries.
As well as creating the new structures, architectures and tools needed to help non-scientists take advantage of big data, the Hartree Centre will deliver computing capability to the international Square Kilometre Array project through its headquarters at Jodrell Bank, and to a variety of national projects including the Turing Centre in London, and the new national materials institute in Manchester.

Professor John Womersley, Chief Executive of STFC, said: ‘Harnessing data intensive science to the needs of industry could transform every business sector as well as every scientific discipline. Currently, even data experts find it difficult to extract insights from many existing large data sets. The Government’s five-year investment in the Hartree Centre will deliver a step-change in capability, and plans to bring in significant knowledge and expertise from IBM which will help ensure our science and industry remains at the very forefront of research and development.

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