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High Performance Computing Steps up Another Gear


16 February 2007

EPSRC have signed two contracts, worth £113 million, to provide the next generation UK High End Computing service.

HECToR (High End Computing Terascale Resources) is the latest national high performance computing service for the UK academic community. It will provide UK scientists with the means to undertake increasingly complex computational simulations across a range of scientific disciplines including climatology, earth sciences, chemistry, materials, fluid dynamics, atomic and molecular physics, plasma physics and nanoscience. The service is expected to operate for six years and have an initial theoretical peak capability of 60 Tflop/s.

“HECToR is the latest development in the fast moving and continually evolving area of high performance computing”, said Dr Randal Richards, Interim Chief Executive of EPSRC. “It benefits scientists from all areas of the UK science base ensuring that they are able to carry out cutting edge research with the best possible computer facilities and continue to remain at the forefront of research in this area across the world. Additionally, it maintains the place of the UK amongst the leaders in advanced computational science and engineering.”

The contracts are with UoE HPCX Ltd and NAG (Numerical Algorithms Group) Ltd. UoE HPCX Ltd is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the University of Edinburgh. UoE HPCX Ltd will contract and direct the hardware and service provision through sub-contracts to the University of Edinburgh, the Council for the Central Laboratory of the Research Councils (CCLRC) and Cray.

The computer hardware will be provided by Cray and accommodated and managed by UoE HPCX Ltd at the University of Edinburgh’s Advanced Computing Facility.

NAG Ltd will provide computational science and engineering support for users of the system.

The project is funded from significant contributions from the OSI’s Large Facilities Capital Fund, established to ensure UK scientists have access to leading edge, large-scale experimental projects and facilities, and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) are also contributing financially to the project, emphasising the breadth of science that will be supported. The EPSRC, which is funded by the OSI, has managed the procurement project on behalf of Research Councils UK.

Notes for Editors

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is the managing agent on behalf of all Research Councils (RCs) for the procurement of a new high-end computing service for use by UK academic users. This service, called HECToR, is due to start in October 2007 and will have an initial theoretical peak capability of 60 Tflop/s, increasing to approximately 250 Tflop/s peak in October 2009 with a further upgrade planned for October 2011. Website address for further information:

Maintaining access to leading edge experimental facilities is a key element of keeping UK scientists at the forefront, and competitive, in their fields of research. In many cases the responsibility for the investment needed to maintain this access should properly fall to the universities and institutes in which the scientists are employed. For larger investments, the Research Councils have the responsibility for investments, with additional support provided by OSI’s Large Facilities Capital Fund. Further information on large facilities funding can be found at the following link:

The science case for HECToR identified that the science and engineering fields that will benefit from further investment in high end computing span the entire breadth of the UK research base and all scales from elementary particles to the universe at large, and include the following 16 fields: atomic, molecular and optical physics; computational chemistry; materials simulations; nanoscience; computational engineering; biomolecular sciences; health sciences and bioimaging; radiation biology; particle physics; environmental modelling; earth sciences; cosmology; astrophysics; solar system science; plasma physics; disaster simulation and emergency response. Some of these fields already have world-class research programmes that are dependent upon access to high performance computing services at the national level, others are becoming increasingly dependent (eg, biomolecular sciences), and yet others are just starting to explore the opportunities (eg, radiation biology, disaster simulation and emergency response). The availability of a high performance computing capability brings additional value to the research projects carried out at the large facilities, eg, synchrotron, neutron and laser sources. The data from these, eg, diffraction patterns and energy spectra, provide validation for the simulations carried out using high performance computing. This gives confidence in the theoretical principles used to describe the systems under study, which can then be developed to describe whole systems.

The University of Edinburgh
Established in 1583, the University of Edinburgh is one of the UK’s most important and historic Higher Education institutions. World renowned for its research and teaching, it is a member of the prestigious Russell Group, an association of the UK’s 20 major research intensive universities. Student numbers currently stand at over 24,000 and the University employs more than 7,000 staff. Further information:

About Edinburgh Parallel Computing Centre and UoE HPCX Ltd
UoE HPCX Ltd is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the University of Edinburgh. With the signing of the HECToR agreement it holds the contracts to provide both the UK’s national supercomputer services for academia. Its success is based on that of Edinburgh Parallel Computing Centre (EPCC) – a computational science research and technology transfer institute within the University. Founded in 1990, EPCC’s mission is to accelerate the effective exploitation of novel computing solutions throughout academia, industry and commerce. Today, EPCC is the leading computational science technology transfer centre in Europe. Further information:

About Cray Inc.
As a global leader in supercomputing, Cray provides highly advanced supercomputers and world-class services and support to government, industry and academia. Cray technology enables scientists and engineers to achieve remarkable breakthroughs by accelerating performance, improving efficiency and extending the capabilities of their most demanding applications. Cray’s Adaptive Supercomputing vision will result in innovative next-generation products that integrate diverse processing technologies into a unified architecture, allowing customers to surpass today’s limitations and meeting the market’s continued demand for realized performance. Go to for more information.

About NAG
NAG is a not-for-profit organization which grew out of academia over 30 years ago. NAG’s libraries of mathematical and statistical components underpin thousands of programs and applications around the world in industries as diverse as financial analysis, science and engineering, and in academia and research. NAG’s HPC team develops software for and supports users on a wide-range of high-end computers throughout the world.


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