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Fujitsu win contract to boost super computing in Wales

Global technology giant Fujitsu has today (March 22) been named as the successful bidder to partner with the Universities in Wales to create a unique £40 million world-class super computing network, a research and innovation institute and a skills academy.

The supporting infrastructure will stretch to the four corners of Wales and have a reach across the rest of the globe.

The contract is worth £15 million over four years to Fujitsu, who will provide infrastructure and services.

It represents a quantum leap forward in high performance computing in Wales. It will give Wales the most advanced and evolving computing technology available.

High performance computing technology has the capacity to handle and analyse massive amounts of data at high speed, bringing innovation to the market faster.

The High Performance Computing Wales (HPC Wales) project is of strategic importance to the Welsh economy, creating super computing capability and capacity across Wales, accessible to both universities and industry. It will position Wales as a leading international centre for specialist computational research, providing a strong competitive advantage.

The scale and distributed nature of the undertaking, combined with its open access to business, makes it a unique initiative, unprecedented in the UK and the rest of Europe.

The investment in super computing facilities and equipment, accessible via a network linked to 12 sites across Wales, is backed by a major investment in high level skills development and training, as well as tailor-made training and research support for business.

Fujitsu will commence work immediately, with support from their partners, including household names such as Microsoft and Intel. The aim is for the HPC project to be fully operational before the end of this year.

Ieuan Wyn Jones, Deputy First Minister and Minister for the Economy and Transport, described it as a major investment in the future of Wales – providing both the supercomputing facilities and staffing needed for future growth.

He said: “It will provide crucial support for key industry sectors as well as stimulate the growth of ICT and other industries. It supports our Economic Renewal programme, giving businesses real competitive edge, encouraging higher value-added industry and making Wales an attractive location for high value investment.”

A spokesman for Fujitsu said: “Our work with HPC Wales will be one of the most significant enterprise-class grid systems in Europe today and will be Fujitsu’s largest HPC project in Europe.

“What’s key for us is that HPC is no longer all about ‘tera’ and ‘petaflop’ supercomputer technical ratings.

“Rather it is about what the HPC capability is used to achieve and ultimately what difference that makes. We’re confident that our work with HPC Wales will bring significant technology, skills, research, jobs and economic development to the region.”

Lesley Griffiths, the Welsh Assembly Government’s Deputy Minister for Science, Innovation and Skills, said it would open up a new era of commercially focussed research across Wales, forging close collaborations between businesses and universities.

“The academy and outreach programmes will also drive forward high level skills, with hard objectives for building skills levels in information and communication technologies and computational based science. It will help businesses in every part of Wales, complementing the support delivered through the Economic Renewal programme.”

The main computer hubs for HPC Wales will be in Cardiff and Swansea/Pembroke Dock, linked to spokes at Swansea, Aberystwyth, Bangor and the University of Glamorgan, with further links to University of Wales Alliance Universities and business innovation centres throughout Wales.

HPC Wales, which was announced last July, consists of three elements:

  • investment in new equipment accessible from centres around Wales
  • a training academy to develop high performance computing skills among researchers
  • and an institute to provide high level technical services to support research and economic activities.

HPC Wales has a unique delivery vehicle in place for this project which will be managed by a charitable, not-for-profit organisation set up by the St David’s Day Group of Universities and the University of Wales.

Funding for the project comes from the following –

£19m from ERDF and ESF European funds channelled through WEFO.

£10m from the UK Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS).

£4m from collaborating institutions.

£5m from the Welsh Assembly Government HEFCW.

£2m private sector and research income

The £40m investment will cover equipment, management and operational costs over the first five years to 2015. HPC Wales will develop a plan to deliver sustainability at the end of five years.

Professor Noel Lloyd, chair of Higher Education Wales and vice-chancellor of Aberystwyth University, said: “HPC Wales is also an excellent example of higher education institutions in Wales collaborating to achieve a common goal. This project would not have been possible without the commitment of many people working both within higher education and the Welsh Assembly Government. The teamwork and cooperation has been outstanding and an excellent indicator for the future.”


HPC will help Bangor’s work on tidal power

The new HPC Wales computer will help us balance our future power needs with our desire to save the environment.

The School of Ocean Sciences at Bangor University is carrying out detailed modelling to predict the long-term impact of site-choice for tidal power generation systems.

As the world is taking actionDr Simon NeillDr Simon Neill to reduce the damaging carbon emissions associated with fossil-fuel-based electrical power generation, attention is being focussed on renewable energy sources.

Tidal power systems are attracting particular attention due to the extremely reliable natural event that underpins their operation – the tide always comes in and goes out twice a day!

Marine tidal turbines directly harness the power of the tidal flow in a location by using what are effectively underwater propellers that are turned by the flow of the tide, and operate electrical generators.  

Choosing sites for such generation plants, and their detailed design, requires a careful balance to be struck between how much energy is removed from the tidal flow and how this energy removal will impact the natural environment in the vicinity of the plant.

Dr Simon Neill, who leads the modelling work in this area at Bangor University, sees great potential in using HPC Wales to enable the modelling of the long-term impact of the construction of a marine tidal turbine.

He said: “With the computing capability we currently have we can only model the impact of a marine tidal turbine on the sea floor for a single lunar cycle, a period of about a month.

“Over such a short timescale, the changes to the sea floor do not actually have a material impact on the tidal flows being modelled, and can be safely ignored.

“The lifetime of a marine generation plant is expected to be at least 25 years, and changes to the sea floor over this time period will potentially have a great impact on the actual tidal flows being modelled.

“Accurate prediction of the impact of a plant must include the changes to the tidal flow that are going to occur over this extended time period, and the limitations of the computing capability that we have had available have, so far, prevented us from doing this.

“Access to the HPC Wales computing capability will now, for the first time, enable us to predict with some certainty what the lifetime impact of a generation plant will be.”

This modelling is important as we need to be able to assess any ecological impacts caused by the plant. These would include how any change to the shape of the sea bed that may occur might affect navigable shipping channels or the impact on storm waves reaching coastal regions, as well as any possible economic impacts on the fishing industry. These all need to be understood and factored into the planning decision process.”

Dr Neill added: “I see great potential here. By enabling us to provide predictions of the true impact of a marine power generation installation we can provide data that will enable those planning the installations to choose the locations and designs that achieve the best balance between meeting our power needs and impacting the environment. Without access to HPC, we would not be able to do this.”


For information concerning Bangor University's involvement in HPC Wales please conatc Phil Lane:

Publication date: 22 March 2011