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UK triples funding for AI supercomputers to improve research for safer tools

The United Kingdom has revealed plans to inject additional funding into its new supercomputers to improve the country’s capabilities in research and development of safer artificial intelligence (AI) tools.

According to the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, the latest investment in the “AI Research Resource” (AIRR), the national facility developed to support the U.K.’s AI ambitions, will help researchers maximize the potential of AI by building and connecting two new supercomputers, which the department said would have over 30 times the capacity of the largest public AI computing tools in the country, and would be made available for use by the summer of 2024. The statement confirmed that the government had injected an additional £200 million ($247.5 million) into building the AI supercomputers after an initial funding of £100 million ($125 million) in April.

The total investment for the AIRR supercomputers now stands at £300 million ($371.3 million).

Both supercomputers will assist researchers and the government’s AI task force in ensuring the safe development of AI technologies amid rapid industry innovation. The fresh funding for the supercomputers comes after the first day of the U.K.’s AI Safety Summit, with leading industry players and countries in attendance.

“At our AI Safety Summit in Bletchley Park, we have made it clear that Britain is grasping the opportunity to lead the world in adopting this technology safely so we can put it to work and lead healthier lives,” said Science, Innovation, and Technology Secretary Michele Donelan.

“That is why we are investing in building the U.K.’s supercomputers, making sure we cement our place as a world leader in AI safety,” noted Donelan.

On the technical side, the first AI supercomputer, dubbed Isambard-AI, will comprise 5,000 NVIDIA (NASDAQ: NVDA) chips and will be able to compute 200 quadrillion calculations per second. Built by Helwett-Packard Enterprise, the proposed supercomputer will be the “U.K.’s current fastest machine” and will take a human 6.3 billion years to match its capabilities in a second.

The U.K. says it will bolster its AI abilities with a second supercomputer dubbed Dawn, laced with 1,000 intel chips and water-cooling to improve its energy efficiencies. Built via a collaboration with Dell (NASDAQ: DELL) and UK SME StackHPC, Dawn is expected to find functionality in “fusion, energy, healthcare, and climate modeling.”

In August, it was revealed that the U.K. had opened negotiations with AI chip manufacturers like NVIDIA, Advanced Micro Devices (NASDAQ: AMD), and Intel (NASDAQ: INTC) as part of plans to launch an AI research center. Plans by the government to ensure the safe development of AI systems have seen the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) push for rules to prevent industry monopoly by the largest AI firms.

First steps for a global standard

The U.K.’s AI Safety Summit has already earned early wins after 28 countries signed the Bletchley Declaration, pledging to adopt a collective approach to managing AI risks.

“The declaration is a landmark achievement that sees the world’s greatest AI powers agree on the urgency behind understanding the risks of AI—helping ensure the long-term future of our children and grandchildren,” said U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

Following the signing of the declaration, critics hailed the move but issued calls for more actionable steps to reduce AI risks, including the convergence of AI with blockchain technology.

Watch: AI takes center stage at London Chatbot Summit

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