How the world's largest and fastest supercomputers are being used to understand the coronavirus

The UK is the first country outside the US to join the COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium, which provides access to the world's fastest supercomputers for work on tackling the pandemic.
Written by Owen Hughes, Senior Editor

UK scientists will be given access to some of the fastest supercomputers in the world to accelerate their understanding of COVID-19 and help identify potential treatments.

As part of the COVID-19 High-Performance Computing (HPC) Consortium, researchers will be able to run advanced statistical modelling on HPC platforms to help better understand how the disease behaves.

It is hoped this will rapidly advance UK research into the coronavirus, which can be shared with other nations to further treatments and improve knowledge of the disease.

SEE: Coronavirus: From startups to supercomputers, how tech is trying to help tackle COVID-19 

The UK is the first country outside of the US to join the consortium, which brings together 40 members across government, industry and academia and counts Google, NASA, the US Department of Energy and IBM as members.

UK Science Minister, Amanda Solloway, said: "Tackling coronavirus requires a joint and strong international effort and the very best minds in science and technology sharing their research and knowledge.

"By joining this consortium, our leading researchers will be able to access some of the most advanced computers in the world to speed up their research, gain access to new developments, and share the UK's world-class computing technologies to find a solution to this virus."

The HPC Consortium has already supported 59 research projects working to tackle the coronavirus. This includes work by London-based artificial intelligence (AI) startup Kuano, which is using the computing facilities to gain insights from diseases similar to COVID-19 – such as SARs – with the aim of designing a new drug for the virus.   

The UK will contribute its own supercomputer facilities to the initiative, including those operated by the Met Office and UK Atomic Energy Authority. According to UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), which is leading the UK's access to the consortium, this will add more than 20 Petaflops of computing capability to the global effort.

SEE: Coronavirus: Critical IT policies and tools every business needs (TechRepublic Premium) 

UK Data Minister, John Whittingdale, said: "The UK has a longstanding reputation for innovation so it is fantastic to see our researchers and scientists working with the world's fastest supercomputers to accelerate the treatment, research and understanding of the coronavirus.

"We are determined to use the power of data and emerging technologies to improve people's lives and the UK will make a vital contribution to the consortium."

Editorial standards