Dawn, a result of a two-year co-design effort with Dell and Intel, is now being used by scientists to research fields such as clean energy, personalised medicine and climate change.

The development comes on the heels of the World’s first AI Safety Summit hosted by the UK in November 2023, where the government unveiled plans to boost British AI supercomputing power 30 times over, thanks to the deployment of Dawn and its counterpart Isambard.

Located in Cambridge’s Data Centre, Dawn, with over a thousand Intel graphics processing units, is at the forefront of the government’s AI Research Resource.

Dawn’s innovative hardware and software stem from a collaborative effort involving the Cambridge Open Zettascale Lab, directed by Dr Paul Calleja, in partnership with tech giants Intel and Dell Technologies.

One major application is the use of Dawn by the UK’s Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) in designing the UK’s prototype fusion energy power plant, a pivotal step towards achieving clean and safe electricity through harnessing fusion, which powers the Sun.

Dr Rob Akers, Director of computing programmes at UKAEA, emphasised the complexity of designing a fusion power plant and the necessity to simulate it in the virtual world using supercomputing and AI:

“This isn’t a theoretical challenge – it will result in a physical power plant that will provide significant national supply chain opportunities for construction and seed high-value jobs in AI and ‘digital’ across the UK.”

Dawn will create detailed simulations, or ‘digital twins,’ modelling fusion behaviour and plant machinery, providing crucial insights for UKAEA’s program to build the prototype fusion energy plant, STEP (Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production), in Nottinghamshire.

Dawn’s impact extends beyond clean energy to the advancement of digital twins for personalised medicine.

These virtual replicas of individuals at the biological level hold immense potential for revolutionising healthcare, allowing doctors to predict drug responses, assess pandemic effects, and guide lifestyle interventions.

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Research software engineers at Cambridge’s Institute of Computing for Climate Science are also using AI and machine learning to run simulations that enable climate experts worldwide to analyse and predict the impacts of a changing climate.

Dr Calleja envisions a Phase 2 Dawn, aiming for a tenfold increase in performance: “If taken forward, Dawn Phase 2 will significantly boost the UK’s AI capability and continue this successful industry partnership.”