The UK is spending $273 million to build its fastest ever AI supercomputer

Called Isambard-AI, it’ll be capable of making 200 quadrillion calculations per second.

National Composites Centre (NCC)

The UK government has announced a $273 million investment to build its most powerful supercomputer yet, Isambard-AI, which will rank among the top AI supercomputers in the world when it’s switched on. It’ll pack thousands of NVIDIA superchips, allowing it to run more than 200 quadrillion calculations per second. Isambard-AI is expected to begin operations in summer 2024 and will be hosted by the University of Bristol.

The supercomputer is being built by Hewlett Packard Enterprise and will use 5,448 of NVIDIA’s GH200 Grace Hopper Superchips, NVIDIA said in its own announcement. It’ll be able to achieve over 21 exaflops of AI performance, or over 21 quintillion floating point operations per second for AI applications, like training large language models. According to the University of Bristol, Isambard-AI will be 10 times faster than the fastest supercomputer in the UK today. It’ll be housed at Bristol’s National Composites Center in a “self-cooled, self-contained data center.”

The announcement came during the UK's AI Safety Summit, where leaders from multiple countries — including the US — are meeting to discuss the future of AI and its potential risks. Isambard-AI will eventually be used to connect with other supercomputers in the UK as well, to boost performance even further. Once it’s up and running, according to Simon McIntosh-Smith of the University of Bristol, Isambard-AI “will be one of the most powerful AI systems for open science anywhere.”