UCL Mathematical & Physical Sciences


UCL to host a national supercomputer centre

17 February 2020

UCL has received £4.5 million from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to build a national supercomputer centre to improve support for UK researchers making scientific breakthroughs, such as designing better batteries and improving drug design.

Materials and Molecular Modelling Hub - abstract image

Since 2016, the Materials and Molecular Modelling Hub led by UCL, has brought together partners in London’s Thomas Young Centre and others across the country to carry out ground-breaking research on the properties of new and existing materials, and this new funding will build on the Hub’s capability.

These include understanding and preventing surface degradation, such as corrosion and wear, on a range of different materials; researching how changes to the recycling of metals can reduce the environmental damage caused by metal extraction; and developing the next generation of materials for solar energy generation.

Professor Angelos Michaelides (UCL Physics & Astronomy), who leads the Hub, said: “Materials are at the heart of almost every modern technology, including energy generation, storage and supply, transportation, electronic devices, defence and security, healthcare, and the environment.

“Through the Materials and Molecular Modelling Hub, researchers at UCL, the Thomas Young Centre, and other partner organisations will work to obtain a fundamental understanding of materials, leading to new scientific discoveries that may drive economic development.”

Seven High Performance Computing centres will be supported by a £27 million investment from the EPSRC, part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

UCL is a partner on the Joint Academic Data Science Endeavour – 2 (JADE 2) project, led by the University of Oxford, which received an additional £5.5 million from the EPSRC.

The JADE 2 service will be a unique national resource providing a state-of-the-art Graphics Processing Unit computing facility for research into AI, machine learning and molecular dynamics to support a range of sectors including financial services, manufacturing, energy and healthcare.

The funding announced today will not only provide new state-of-the-art computing hardware across a wide range of different technologies, but will support the development of research computing skills, including boosting the careers of Research Software Engineers, across the UK.

EPSRC Executive Chair Professor Dame Lynn Gladden said: “Computation is becoming an ever-more important scientific tool, be it for analysing large data sets generated from experimental work or modelling situations which can’t be replicated in experiments.

“The High Performance Computing services announced today will give researchers access to the tools they need to make breakthroughs in a wide range of fields that impact on how we live our lives.

“These include heterogeneous catalysis – modelling chemical processes which contribute to the production of items used in everyday life - understanding the performance of materials for better batteries for electric vehicles and other energy storage applications, and using advanced computational drug design for therapeutics targeting a large variety of health conditions.”

Professor David Price, UCL Vice-Provost (Research), commented: “I congratulate Prof Michaelides and his colleagues in the Hub. The application of high-performance computing can help humanity to address many of its critical – and increasingly urgent – challenges. And the further development of research software engineers through JADE 2 is very welcome, since their work underpins many of the advances that are becoming possible.”