Midlands-based supercomputer unlocks research potential

Date posted: November 19, 2021
A room of servers lit up with blue lights

A state-of-the-art high-performance computer (HPC) within the Midlands – the first machine of its kind in the UK – is set to vastly increase research potential and ambition for academics.

Based at a purpose-built data centre at the University of Warwick, the new HPC system Sulis focuses on enhanced ensemble computing workflows, addressing an unmet need in the research and innovation sector.

Funded by EPSRC and the HPC Midlands+ Consortium, the new facility will lead to more opportunities for ground-breaking research within a range of disciplines, enhance research capabilities and allow academics to deliver more competitive world-class research.

Professor David Quigley from the University of Warwick who led on the multi-million-pound funding bid said:

Computer simulation and modelling are increasingly seen as the third pillar of modern science, alongside theory and experiment.

Many of our research activities are based on relatively modest-scale simulations that we need to repeat many thousands of times with different inputs. This helps us make predictions based on large samples of data, understand how sensitive our models are to their inputs, and hence quantify the robustness of our predictions.

Sulis allows researchers in the Midlands and beyond to leverage a large-scale facility focussed on exactly these workloads rather than individual very large simulations. By running thousands of simulations concurrently in high-throughput mode, time is dramatically reduced allowing us to increase the scope and ambition of research.

Researchers from Midlands Innovation have already produced data samples from the tier 2 facility to better understand the opportunities it presents and have made some exciting discoveries within drug discovery and identifying suitable battery materials for electric vehicles.

Sulis unlocks greater research potential for chemists, material physicists and astronomers.
PhD students and early career researchers will also benefit from upskilling and advancing their knowledge of ensemble computing.

The range of applications for Sulis is huge; from using machine learning and molecular simulation to make drug discovery more sustainable at the University of Nottingham to performing unique large-scale molecular dynamics simulations of entire viruses at atomistic resolution, which is only possible using state-of-the-art supercomputers like Sulis at Aston University.

Dr Helen Turner, Director for Midlands Innovation said:

The Midlands is at the forefront of sustainable, world-class research thanks to this state-of-the-art high-performance computer (HPC) which will enable ground-breaking research.

This new infrastructure builds on previous collaborative HPC facilities in the Midlands, improving our researchers access to cutting-edge infrastructure. Sulis will not only expand the capabilities of researchers within the Midlands Innovation partnership and hopefully lead to new research collaborations between our institutions, but also strengthen the offer we can make to our industrial partners.

Sulis was provided by high performance computing, storage, cloud and AI integrator, OCF.

For the latest from our region, subscribe to Midlands Matters, the official newsletter of the Midlands Engine.

Housed at the University of Warwick, Sulis will help our region’s chemists, physicists, astronomers and others to produce groundbreaking research.


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