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N8 Partnership brings a NICE facility

Posted on 17 February 2020

The University of York once again has access to high-performance computing facilities following a multi-million pound award from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

Through its membership of the N8 Research Partnership the University will be able to use the new £3.15m Northern Intensive Compute Environment (NICE), which will be based at the University of Durham as a shared facility between all N8 members.


The supercomputer will provide researchers with invaluable access to powerful systems to support ground-breaking work in areas ranging from artificial intelligence, energy storage and supply and therapeutic drug design.

N8 members - the universities of Durham, Lancaster, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Sheffield and York - will share use and cost of the facility on an equal basis.

NICE replaces the Polaris system which was based at the University of Leeds and decommissioned in 2018. The newly-established Centre of Excellence in Computational Intensive Research (N8CIR) will train N8 researchers while also being responsible for the operation of the new supercomputer.


Professor Matt Probert from the Department of Physics at York is director of N8CIR. He said: “The announcement of this new facility will help computational research thrive across the N8 community and beyond. It has a novel architecture which has been chosen to accelerate machine learning and image processing capabilities, which underpin many and new exciting research ideas in many different fields.”

The new service will use the same technology as that used in the current leading supercomputers in the world, but on a smaller scale. The technology has been chosen with the aim of supporting a combination of experimental users and modellers using machine learning, and in bringing the two communities together.


This will mean that machine learning can be better used to analyse the vast data sets now being generated by experimentalists through national facilities such as Diamond and the Henry Royce Institute and international facilities such as the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility.

Scientists will be able to advance the imaging techniques necessary to produce the next generation of X-ray instruments and support students in working with deep learning techniques at the interface of algorithms and high performance computing.