Based on the Sci-Tech Daresbury campus in the Liverpool City Region, the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s (STFC) Hartree Centre is home to some of the most advanced computer hardware and expertise in the UK. Backed by over £170 million of government funding, the centre works with businesses of all sizes as well as the research community to assess real-world challenges, to provide training and to advance the take-up of high performance computing technologies.
Via a variety of services and relationships, the centre strives to encourage industrial innovation, and has partnerships with organisations such as IBM, Intel, Atos and Mellanox. The centre is also part of the Science and Technology Facilities Council – a UK Research Council which is among the largest multi-disciplinary research organisations in Europe.
The Hartree Centre was originally founded in 2012, with the aim of conducting industry research and development using supercomputers. Over the years, this mission has expanded to include special focus on areas such as energy efficient computing, big data analytics and cognitive computing.
A key part of the Hartree Centre’s work is to promote to industry the opportunities afforded by adopting new digital technologies and processes (ranging from cognitive applications to the Internet of Things). Doing so can provide enormous benefits for businesses, whether they are SMEs or international corporations, and can boost productivity and efficiency as well as facilitating innovation. Beyond this, the centre supports the academic research community by providing the tools that they need to advance the frontiers of computational science.
The Hartree Centre is also making its expertise in computing, cognitive and data applications available to SMEs in the Liverpool City Region as one of the technology partners in the pioneering LCR 4.0 project.
Facilities at the centre include large scale computing infrastructure, data storage and immersive visualisation suites.The Hartree Centre is home to Scafell Pike, the first Bull Sequana supercomputer in the UK, and formerly hosted the Blue Joule supercomputing platform. When it was installed, Blue Joule was the 13th most powerful non-distributed computing system in the world. Recently, another supercomputer – Blue Wonder – was retired and donated to Durham University, where it is used by physics, astronomy and cosmology researchers. While based there, the supercomputer is assisting projects studying subjects ranging from the planet Jupiter and gravitational waves to cloud motion and weather patterns.
A cognitive hospital
In 2016, the centre launched a collaboration with Alder Hey Children’s Hospital with the objective of making it the UK’s first ‘cognitive hospital’, providing patient-centred care. The project used the IBM Watson cognitive computing platform and explored how patients’ use and experience of the hospital could be enhanced. The project was named the “Most Innovative Collaboration” at the North West Coast Research and Innovation Awards 2017.
More recently the centre became a partner in a £2.9 million research programme aiming to innovate the way that nuclear facilities are designed, developed and built – working alongside the University of Liverpool, Rolls-Royce, EDF Energy and Cambridge University, among others.
Unilever – accelerating research
Meanwhile, the centre also has a long-term relationship with Unilever, intended to advance the company’s research processes using high performance computing. One of the outcomes of this has been the creation of an app that provides easy access to supercomputer resources – and which reportedly means that a week’s product experimentation work can now be completed in an hour. Other projects have involved packaging innovation and delivering the best customer experience for laundry liquids.
There’s no doubt that cognitive computing and big data will revolutionise industry in the coming years – in the meantime, the Hartree Centre will be at the forefront of the field, advocating the benefits of new technology and offering guidance on how it can be applied.
The Hartree Centre is located at Sci-Tech Daresbury in the Liverpool City Region. Sci-Tech Daresbury is internationally known for its research work and is home to scientists and engineers from across private industry and the university research community. Areas of study include accelerator science, bio-medicine, physics, chemistry, materials, engineering and computational science, while facilities range from a particle accelerator to a VR/AR lab.