In order to ensure that the nation can develop its own “BritGPT,” the UK government is investing £900 million in a cutting-edge supercomputer.
A new AI research organization will be established, along with plans to spend about £900 million on the construction of an exascale computer that will be many times more powerful than the largest computers in the UK.
Exascale computers can be used for complex AI model training as well as other purposes in science, business, and defense, such as forecasting weather and predicting the future of the climate.
The £900 million investment will “enable researchers to better understand climate change, power the discovery of new drugs, and maximize our potential in AI,” according to the Treasury.
An exascale computer is one that has a “exaflops” capacity, or the ability to perform more than one billion billion simple calculations per second. Frontier, a supercomputer used at America’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory for scientific research, is the only one of its kind that is currently known to exist. However, given the significance of supercomputers for military purposes, it’s possible that there are other ones out there that are unrecognized by their owners. The next-fastest machine, Frontier, which was developed for about £500 million and went online in 2022, is more than twice as powerful.
The UK must invest in large language models, the UK’s MPs were warned last month, or it runs the risk of falling behind nations like China and significant corporations.