IBM and Hartree partner on AI and quantum research

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Hartree Centre joins IBM’s Digital Accelerator programme to further research into artificial intelligence and quantum computing

Cliff Saran

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Published: 04 Jun 2021 9:18

IBM Research and the Hartree Centre have joined forces to build expertise in artificial intelligence (AI) and quantum computing.

Called the Hartree National Centre for Digital Innovation (HNCDI), the £210m, five-year programme aims to support UK businesses and the public sector by reducing the risk of exploring and adopting innovative digital technologies by breaking down practical barriers to innovation, such as access to infrastructure or digital skills gaps within their organisation.

IBM said the collaboration will enhance productivity, create new skilled jobs and boost regional and national economic growth.

The research is part of IBM’s global Discovery Accelerator initiative, which seeks to accelerate discovery and innovation based on a convergence of advanced technologies by establishing research centres, fostering and enabling collaborative communities. The Discovery Accelerator also aims to advance skills and economic growth in large-scale programmes.

The new IBM programme will involve an additional 60 scientists, interns and students joining IBM Research and the Hartree Centre, within the UK Research and Innovation’s Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC). 

Mark Thomson, executive chair of STFC Hartree Centre, said: “HNCDI will enable the UK to develop the skills, knowledge and technical capability required to adopt emerging digital technologies, seeding the UK with new ideas and innovative solutions. The programme has transformative potential to generate long-term GVA for the economy by embedding AI solutions across UK industry.

“We are applying knowledge from the UK’s strong fundamental research base to develop tools and techniques that address identified industry and public sector needs, improving economic and societal outcomes.”

Global consumer packaged goods company Unilever is one of the organisations that plan to work with the researchers at Hartree. Richard Slater, chief research and development officer at Unilever, said: “Digitally enabled innovation to create sustainable materials is an essential part of Unilever’s Compass strategy and our ambitions to create renewable and sustainable products across our Beauty and Personal Care and Home Care divisions.

“It is exciting to see how this work is being accelerated through collaborative research and innovation with the STFC Hartree Centre. This further investment will undoubtedly increase research and innovation on important technology areas and projects for the UK economy and industry.” 

In terms of quantum computing, STFC Hartree Centre will join the IBM Quantum Network, which provides more than 150 organisations, including BP and UK startups Cambridge Quantum Computing and Phasecraft, with access to IBM quantum computers and development tools via the IBM Hybrid Cloud.

Commenting on the partnership, science minister Amanda Solloway said: “Artificial intelligence and quantum computing have the potential to revolutionise everything, from the way we travel to the way we shop. They are exactly the kind of fields I want the UK to be leading in, and this new centre in the North West is a big step towards that.

“Thanks to this fantastic new partnership with IBM, British businesses will have access to the kind of infrastructure and expertise that will help them boost innovation and grow the economy.”

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