Government announces new supercomputer for N8 universities

Close-up view of a supercomputer

Our researchers are set to benefit from access to a High Performance Computing Facility (HPC), following a £3.1 million investment from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

Based at the University of Durham, the new Northern Intensive Computing Environment (NICE) will provide a shared facility for academic and industry researchers from all of the N8 universities, including here at Sheffield. The other N8 universities are Durham, Newcastle, Lancaster, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester and York.

The Tier-2 supercomputing services will provide researchers with invaluable access to powerful systems to support groundbreaking work in areas ranging from Artificial Intelligence (AI), energy storage and supply and therapeutic drug design.

The primary focus of NICE is to support experimental researchers who generate large datasets for analysis, such as researchers using Cryo-Electron Microscopy facilities within Molecular Biology and Biotechnology. The system will also be well suited for use by researchers across all disciplines who perform modelling using machine learning.

The unique GPU architecture of NICE will allow researchers to tackle much larger problem sizes than can be tackled by existing GPU systems, allowing larger data sets to be analysed and the simulation of more complex systems.

The new NICE service will use the same technology as that used in the current leading supercomputers in the world, extending the capability of accelerated computing. The technology has been chosen with the aim of combining experimental, modelling and machine learning approaches, bringing these communities together to address new challenges.

This will mean that machine learning can be used alongside modelling and simulation to better understand the vast data sets now being generated by experimentalists through, for example, national facilities such as Diamond and the Sir Henry Royce Institute and international facilities such as the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility. This approach will enable scientists to, for example, advance the imaging techniques necessary to produce the next generation of X-ray instruments and develop future students working with deep learning techniques at the interface of algorithms and High Performance Computing.

Our University was also part of another successful HPC award JADE2. JADE2 is a UK Tier-2 resource, funded by EPSRC, led by the University of Oxford and hosted at the Hartree Centre. JADE2 aims to build on the success of the current JADE facility - a unique national resource providing state of the art GPU computing facilities to world leading experts in the areas of Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning (AI/ML) and molecular dynamics (MD) research - by providing increased computational capabilities to these communities and delivering a stronger, more robust service to address the lessons learned from the initial service.

High Performance Computing (HPC) facilities provided by IT Services are freely available to all staff and research students at the University.

As well as fast number crunching capabilities, it also provides many specialist software packages that are not normally available on the public workstations.

Find out more about the University’s HPC facilities

Hear more about NICE at the ResearchComputing@Sheffield 2020 annual event

RC@Sheffield 2020: Innovations in Data Analytics & High Performance Computing (HPC)

Wednesday 22 April 2020, 9am - 4pm
Firth Hall, Firth Court

This event presents aspects of research computing within the University from standard desktop to high performance computing applications, using open source and commercial code, for statistical analyses, bioinformatics, engineering simulations, medical applications and deep learning.

The day will consist of talks, including an update from the N8 CIR (N8 Centre of Excellence in Computationally Intensive Research), computation workflow walk-throughs and an opportunity to take part in two lightning talk sessions (register for your two minute research computing plug on the day).

All staff and students welcome.

For further information, contact Des Ryan at