Project on the ‘critical’ future of advanced computing in the UK headed up by St John’s academic

“Advanced compute is fundamental to the UK’s national interest”

A Government review into how the UK can use advanced computing to power technologies of the future is being led by Artificial Intelligence (AI) expert Professor Zoubin Ghahramani, a Fellow of St John's.

The Future of Compute Review, which is part of the UK Government’s new Digital Strategy, was launched by Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak at the start of London Tech Week on Monday 13 June.

The project will look at the UK’s compute needs, develop cost-effective solutions to ensure researchers and industry have what they need to lead the way, and inform a long-term plan for the UK.

During his opening address at the Queen Elizabeth II Centre in London, the Chancellor said high-performance computers and cloud capabilities were vital for powering technologies of the future, such as AI, and this would be critical for the UK’s productivity, prosperity and innovation.

Prof Zoubin Ghahramani
Professor Zoubin Ghahramani is leading the review.

“From modelling the effects of climate change, to powering the discovery of new drugs and increasing business innovation, the capabilities of advanced compute are endless,” said the Chancellor.

“The UK is a world leader in innovation and this review will help us maintain that position – as we embrace new technologies and the people that create them to drive forward our growth and productivity.”

Advanced compute – the large-scale processing power, memory and data storage that is used to tackle tasks beyond the capabilities of everyday computers – is an important component of the UK’s digital infrastructure and a building block for future capability.

It is becoming essential to biology, chemistry, physics, and nearly every other area of research and can also increase business innovation, driving economic growth and productivity.

Professor Ghahramani FRS, who is Professor of Information Engineering at the University of Cambridge, Vice President of Research at Google AI and Director of Google Brain, said: “The UK’s ability to do the hardest science, and help businesses be even more competitive, depends on more powerful computers. Advanced compute helps us model incredibly complex systems, such as what’s happening to the climate and how to stop the spread of pandemics.

“Advanced compute is fundamental to the UK’s national interest. This review will deliver a long term plan for UK compute, enabling government, business and academia to remain at the forefront of innovation and be prepared to fight the biggest challenges of this century.”

The review will report to the Chancellor and the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Nadine Dorries. She said: “We witnessed our most powerful computers speed up the development of vaccines during the pandemic. But all the data generated in the coming years will be meaningless without the capacity to process it.

“This review will ensure we have the advanced computing abilities to keep the UK at the forefront of the most complex science and cutting edge tech to deliver major benefits for people and businesses.”

Professor Ghahramani has advised a number of AI and machine learning companies. Before joining Google, he was Chief Scientist and Vice President for AI at Uber. He served as the founding Cambridge Director of the Alan Turing Institute, the UK’s national institute for data science and AI, and founding Deputy Director of the Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence. He was also co-founder of Geometric Intelligence (which became Uber AI Labs). In 2015, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society for his contributions to machine learning, and won the 2021 Royal Society Milner Award for outstanding achievements in computer science in Europe. In July last year he was awarded one of the first Turing AI World-Leading Researcher Fellowships by UK Research and Innovation to conduct ground-breaking work on AI's biggest challenges.

He added: “I am delighted to lead this review and look forward to bringing my industry and research experience to this important work.”

The Government’s new Digital Strategy, unveiled at the same time as the review, aims to show the potential for digital technologies such as compute to foster business innovation and increase the UK’s international competitiveness.

Published 16/6/2022

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