New supercomputer accelerates pace of health research across North of England

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09 Jul 2014

The Health eResearch Centre (HeRC), a research partnership led by The University of Manchester, has advanced Northern England’s computing power by financing a new computer system that can analyse bigger and more complex sets of information than was previously possible.

The Health eResearch Centre super computerThe Health eResearch Centre super computer

With one thousand times more memory and over a hundred times more powerful than a standard desktop computer, the Health eResearch Centre will use the new system to speed up the pace of research by allowing scientists to process data in quicker and more efficient ways.  As a result, it is hoped that the rate of new discoveries and research findings will increase, leading to improvements in nationwide healthcare services.


With an objective of using health data to improve our understanding of diseases and develop better treatments and care, the Health eResearch Centre merges the academic disciplines of computer science and statistics with health research and clinical practice.  Working across the North of England, HeRC is one of four centres across the UK with partner centres based in Scotland, Wales and London and which collectively, are known as The Farr Institute.

Together, The Farr Institute is helping to establish the UK as a world leader in the field of health informatics research, one of today’s fastest growing areas of development within healthcare.  The investment into the supercomputer was made possible with funding provided by the Medical Research Council (MRC).

To further strengthen the North of England’s international standing within the field of health informatics research, eight leading research universities are being given access to the new system, a Silicon Graphics Inc. SGI UV2.  These universities, collaborating as the N8 Research Partnership already have access to a High Performance Computer (HPC), based at The University of Leeds.   The £3.25m facility is capable of a peak performance of 110 trillion operations per second, enabling the eight universities and industry partners to build more realistic models involving large amounts of data and to undertake more complex analyses in many research fields including life sciences, energy, digital media and aerospace.  Housing the new HeRC supercomputer alongside the existing facility, will create further opportunities for even greater collaboration, and increase the impact of multi-disciplinary research.

Dr John Ainsworth, Deputy Director at the Health eResearch Centre said:  “We are developing new ways to analyse public health information to improve our understanding of common diseases.  This advanced computer system will lead to much more powerful research being conducted and enhance the speed at which researchers can produce results”.

Professor Chris Taylor, N8 HPC Co-Director, The University of Manchester said:  “This is an exciting development for N8 HPC.  It allows us to support a nationally important initiative in e-Health, providing a cost-effective solution by building on the existing N8 HPC infrastructure.  It also extends the capability of N8 HPC for all users – a win-win.”

Notes for editors

For further information, please contact Alison Barbuti, Media Relations Officer for Faculty of Medical and Human Sciences, 0161 275 8383

1. The University of Manchester, a member of the prestigious Russell Group of British universities, is the largest and most popular university in the UK. It has 20 academic schools and hundreds of specialist research groups undertaking pioneering multi-disciplinary teaching and research of worldwide significance. According to the results of the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise, The University of Manchester is one of the country’s major research institutions, rated third in the UK in terms of ‘research power’, and has had no fewer than 25 Nobel laureates either work or study there. The University had an annual income of £807 million in 2011/12.
 
2. About the N8 Research Partnership:
www.n8research.org.uk 
The N8 Research Partnership is a partnership of the 8 research intensive universities in the North of England - Durham, Lancaster, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Sheffield and York.
 
The N8 Research Partnership aims to maximise the impact of this research base by identifying and co-ordinating powerful research teams and collaborations, creating teams with a critical mass of world class academics and forming a network of virtual centres of innovation excellence.
3. The University of Leeds is one of the largest higher education institutions in the UK and a leading research powerhouse. It is a member of the Russell Group of research-intensive universities. www.leeds.ac.uk 
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