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Swiss and UK supercomputers join Covid-19 consortium

Countries pledge computing power for coronavirus research

The UK and Switzerland are contributing some of their computing power to an international supercomputing consortium researching the Covid-19 pandemic, becoming the first European countries to join the public-private initiative.

UK Research and Innovation is leading the UK contribution, which it said on 28 May would add 20 petaflops of computing power to the consortium’s existing 430 petaflops. One petaflop equates to a thousand trillion floating point operations per second.

“The UK’s Digital Research Infrastructure is playing a vital role in the global coronavirus response, from the data science of disease propagation to simulation of antibody protein structures, and the social understanding of human response to the crisis,” said UKRI chief executive Mark Walport.

The Swiss National Supercomputing Centre also joined the consortium, bringing to bear a computer ranked the sixth most powerful in the world. Called Piz Daint, the computer has a peak performance of 27.15 petaflops, the consortium said.

The consortium is co-chaired by representatives of the US Department of Energy and the US-based computing company IBM. It has mainly US members, but is collaborating with the EU-funded Partnership for Advanced Computing in Europe (Prace).