Jeremy Hunt, Chancellor of Exchequer, is considering whether to invest 800 million ($946 millions) in a supercomputer to help the UK become a world leader in science and tech.
People familiar with the matter say that Prime Minister Rishi Sonak’s flagship Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, which was established in February to reflect his political priorities, has submitted plans for Downing Street for the project. They said that the supercomputer would give the domestic tech industry a boost with UK companies providing computers and chips.
Supercomputers can perform trillions of calculations per second. Supercomputers are being increasingly used by governments around the globe to solve problems beyond ordinary computers. They can model climate change and provide better weather forecasts.
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This proposal is intended to be a focal point of Sunak’s ambition that Britain “cement its place as a world science and tech superpower by 2030”, a goal which the prime minister stressed when he published a science technology framework Monday.
People familiar with the matter said that the Treasury has not yet approved funding despite Hunt’s announcement next week of the UK’s annual budget. This is a sign that Sunak may be unable to fulfill his ambitions.
Officials from DSIT had hoped that the supercomputer would be available in time for next weeks’ set-piece. However, discussions between the Treasury and the department are ongoing, they said.
One official stated that it is unlikely that negotiations will be completed in time to approve the budget. Another official said that DSIT had requested new money, but the Treasury wanted the Treasury to use its existing budget. The project is still being considered and a third person stated that the Treasury should provide funding within the next few weeks. DSIT did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In recent years, there have been major advances in supercomputing.
When it was launched in 2022, the US Department of Energy funded the Frontier supercomputer. It can perform more than 1quintillion calculations per second. This is equivalent to every person on Earth performing 60 calculations per minute for four years.