Stronger UK-US cooperation in big data will benefit businesses

Agreement will help translate academic knowledge into real world productivity improvements .

American and British business is expected to benefit from a new collaboration agreement signed today between leading US and UK research laboratories. The deal focuses on translating high performance computing techniques widely used in academia into processes to boost industrial productivity and innovation.

The new memorandum of understanding (MOU) is between the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in California and the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) in the UK.

Both organisations are already recognised leaders in using High Performance Computing (HPC) techniques to address complex research challenges, which can range from imaging the very tiniest components of the human body to modelling the birth and expansion of the entire Universe - the very biggest of Big Data questions.

LLNL’s High Performance Computing Innovation Center and STFC’s Hartree Centre were both created to utilise these techniques to boost the competitiveness of industry and to accelerate the economic impact on innovation. While they have exchanged ideas since 2013, the new MOU marks a step-change in focus.

“We are dedicated to identifying ways in which our skills in high performance computing can provide direct benefit to businesses, and look forward to collaborating more fully with our UK colleagues,” said LLNL Director Bill Goldstein.

Professor Sir Mark Walport is Chief Executive of the UK’s new national agency UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), which will include STFC from April. He said: “Translating knowledge and skills from academia to business is at the heart of the UK Government’s Industrial Strategy – which includes a major focus on big data, artificial intelligence and other data-enabled developments.”

Specific benefits expected from the MOU include collaborative research projects with global industry leaders. Both labs currently have separate agreements with specific large multinational firms: the MOU will enable joint projects with these companies leading to significant additional synergies and outcomes, by speeding the development of the new tool sets in data and simulation applications that are required for industrial implementation.

A further area of collaboration is around the development of exascale computing (one billion billion calculations per second), around 1000 times faster than current petascale systems. Exascale computing may be the key to unlocking true “artificial intelligence” through computing systems that can more accurately mimic the speed of the human brain, but would require breakthroughs in chip architecture and operating software.

The MOU leads on from the signing last September of the historic UK-US Science and Technology Agreement, which commits both nations to collaboration on science and innovation with a goal of improving scientific research and strengthening the two economies.

Sir Mark said: “The United Kingdom is known globally as a powerhouse in research and innovation, and is the world’s scientific partner of choice. I was particularly impressed during my visit to the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory by evidence of the existing strong links between the US national laboratory network and our own network of UKRI labs.  I am confident today’s MOU will lead to even more productive partnerships in the future.”


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