The UK Treasury has made a significant move towards securing the country’s future in the AI race by announcing a £900 million ($1 billion) investment in AI infrastructure. The goal is to create “BritGPT”, an large-scale AI models tailored to the country’s culture and needs. The investment will be used to develop a supercomputer infrastructure for training models and a new AI research body. The exascale computer, which is capable of performing more than a billion calculations per second, will be used for AI training, as well as scientific, industrial, and defense purposes, including modeling weather and climate predictions.
The government hopes that the new hardware and AI infrastructure will help researchers better understand climate change and develop drugs more efficiently. It has also recognized the potential of large language models, such as GPT-4, and is setting up a task force to promote the UK’s sovereign competence in foundational models.
Adrian Joseph, chief data and artificial intelligence officer at British telecoms group BT, has highlighted the risk of the UK falling behind major tech companies and possibly China in areas such as cybersecurity and healthcare. He noted that the ongoing arms race has recently intensified.
The UK government already awards an annual £1 million prize for outstanding AI research, the “Manchester Prize” named after the “Manchester Baby” an early forerunner of the computer developed at the University of Manchester in 1948. However, the new investment signals a greater commitment to securing the country’s future in the AI race.
Other countries are also making moves to establish themselves in the AI field. Germany’s LEAM initiative recently announced plans to establish a high-performance center for artificial intelligence, with the aim of developing basic AI models in Germany and Europe.
The UK’s investment in AI infrastructure is a significant step towards securing the country’s position in the global AI race. By developing tailored AI models, investing in hardware and AI infrastructure, and promoting sovereign competence in foundational models, the UK is positioning itself to be a major player in the field of AI.
The supercomputer infrastructure and exascale computer will be crucial for training large language models, as well as for scientific, industrial, and defence purposes. The investment also reflects the government’s commitment to tackling climate change and developing new drugs more efficiently.
The task force set up to promote the UK’s sovereign competence in foundational models, including large language models, will help the country stay ahead of the curve in the development of AI. However, the arms race in AI is ongoing and intensifying, so the UK will need to remain vigilant and committed to maintaining its position in the global AI race.
What is Exascale Computer?
An exascale computer is a type of high-performance computing system that is capable of performing a billion billion calculations per second (i.e., one exaflop per second). This level of computing power represents a significant milestone in the development of supercomputers and is considered essential for the advancement of many fields, including climate modeling, drug discovery, and AI research.
Other countries, including Japan, India, and the European Union, are also investing in exascale computing technology. These efforts reflect the growing recognition of the importance of high-performance computing in driving scientific and technological progress across a wide range of fields.
Exascale computers are expected to enable new discoveries and innovations in fields ranging from climate modeling and drug discovery to national security and space exploration. They will also help advance the development of AI technologies, including large language models like GPT-4, which require massive amounts of computing power to train.