The architect’s drawings of the proposed Met Office supercomputer facility on the Science Park.

University welcomes announcement of Met Office £97m supercomputer to Exeter Science Park

Exeter’s growing reputation as a world-leading centre for climate change science was given another boost today (October 28) by the announcement that the Met Office has secured the investment required to purchase one of the most powerful supercomputers in the world.

The supercomputer will open up the potential for higher resolution models, which would have the ability to pinpoint more detail for small scale, high-impact weather such as better determining the risk and timing of fog over airports.

Scientists will also explore the benefits of adapting the resolution to improve UK winter forecasts out to months ahead, and assessing the specific regional impacts of climate change such as floods, droughts and heatwaves.

The supercomputer's sophisticated forecasts are anticipated to deliver £2bn of socio-economic benefits to the UK by enabling better advance preparation and contingency plans to protect peoples' homes and businesses.

The new supercomputer will also catalyse the development of the Global Environmental Futures Campus on the Exeter Science Park, a new cluster that will link together environmental science expertise from the Met Office and its academic partners (including the University of Exeter) with industry in a dynamic collaborative environment.

Professor Nick Talbot, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Knowledge Transfer) said: “I am delighted that funding for the supercomputer has been confirmed. This announcement strengthens Exeter’s position as a world-leading centre for both climate change and weather system research.

“The supercomputer has the potential to revolutionise climate prediction and weather forecasting capabilities, which will bring enormous benefits to communities and businesses across the country by improving long-term forecasts. Smart, high resolution weather forecasting will allow businesses to plan more effectively and save money.

"However, it is also likely that completely new businesses will emerge at the Exeter Science Park that are engaged with using climate and weather data in association with data from the health and agricultural sectors, for example.  The opportunities really are enormous for the region and for the nation as a whole.  Exeter Science Park will have unparalleled computer power and some of the very best minds working in data analysis, climate science and meteorology anywhere in the world.  

“The University enjoys an outstanding relationship with the Met Office, and I believe this announcement will further strengthen our collaboration and provide exciting new opportunities for some of our most exceptional scientists to pursue research in climate change and data analytics."

Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, said: "This £97m investment is a crucial part of the government's wider drive to make the UK the best place in the world to do science and research.  By bringing world-class technology to the south west, we are also boosting regional investment and expertise, creating a stronger economy and fairer society."

Universities, Science and Cities Minister Greg Clark said: "This is an investment that says the UK believes in science, putting us up there with the very best in the world enabled by technology that will make huge strides in weather and climate forecasting.

"I have been eager to make this happen for some time, and I am confident that the supercomputer will make this nation more resilient and better prepared for high impact weather and boost the economy - improving lives up and down the country."

The supercomputer, which will be based at the Met Office and Exeter Science Park, will be able to perform more than 16,000 trillion calculations per second, and at 140 tonnes, will weigh the equivalent of 11 double decker buses.

It will also be a catalyst for regional growth in the South West, supporting collaboration and partnerships between science, business and academia.

Met Office Chief Executive Rob Varley said: "We are very excited about this new investment in UK science. It will lead to a step change in weather forecasting and climate prediction and give us the capability to strengthen our collaborations with partners in the South West, UK and around the world.

"The new supercomputer, together with improved observations, science and modelling, will deliver better forecasts and advice to support UK business, the public and government. It will help to make the UK more resilient to high impact weather and other environmental risks."

The first phase of the supercomputer will be operational in September 2015 and the system will reach full capacity in 2017.

Date: 28 October 2014

Read more University News