UK to invest £500M more in AI compute capacity, launch five new quantum projects

The U.K. government will invest £500 million, or $626 million, to provide local researchers and organizations with access to compute capacity for artificial intelligence projects. 

U.K. Chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced the investment in a Wednesday speech before members of Parliament. During the speech, Hunt also detailed five new research initiatives that the government plans to launch as part of its previously announced National Quantum Strategy, which has a budget of £2.5 billion or $3.1 billion. One of the initiatives’ goals is to build large-scale quantum computers. 

According to the Financial Times, the £500 million officials have earmarked for AI compute capacity will be spent over the next two years. The commitment increases the U.K. government’s planned investment in this area to more than £1.5 billion. The hardware the government intends to buy will be used by scientists and machine learning experts, as well as organizations such as AI startups.

As part of the initiative, the U.K. government is commissioning an AI-optimized supercomputer that will be deployed at the University of Bristol. The system is expected to feature thousands of graphics processing units. Those chips will be used for, among other tasks, the development of large language models.

During his Wednesday speech, Hunt also shared new details about the U.K.’s National Quantum Strategy. As part of the program, officials plan to launch five new research projects that each prioritize a different set of technologies.

The first initiative aims to deploy quantum computers capable of running one trillion computing operations. Moreover, officials hope to use those machines to run calculations that are impractical to carry out with conventional computing hardware. The goal is to deliver “high impact” benefits in at least a half-dozen sectors: healthcare, finance, transport, defense, energy and manufacturing. 

The initiative will be implemented in phases. In the first phase, officials hope to deploy a machine capable of 10 million computing operations by 2028. The goal is to increase that number to 10 billion in 2032 before reaching the project’s end goal of one trillion operations by 2035.

In a parallel research project, scientists will develop a network that can link together multiple quantum processors. The goal is to facilitate the flow of data between quantum processors located in different data centers. Officials have also set several other objectives for the project, one of which will be to explore ways to commercialize quantum networking technologies.

The U.K. government also plans to invest in three other research projects as part of the program. Those projects focus on technologies such as quantum sensors, which harness quantum mechanical phenomena to collect more accurate environmental data than traditional sensors. The U.K. government plans to use the technology for tasks such as aircraft navigation. 

Photo: Unsplash

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