The U.K. government and IBM this week announced a five-year £210 million ($297.5 million) artificial intelligence (AI) and quantum computing collaboration, in the hopes of making new discoveries and developing sustainable technologies in fields ranging from life sciences to manufacturing.

The program will hire 60 scientists, as well as bringing in interns and students to work under the auspices of IBM Research and the U.K.’s Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) at the Hartree Centre in Daresbury, Cheshire. The newly formed Hartree National Centre for Digital Innovation (HNCDI) will “apply AI, high performance computing (HPC) and data analytics, quantum computing, and cloud technologies” to advance research in areas like materials development and environmental sustainability, IBM said in a statement.

“Artificial intelligence and quantum computing have the potential to revolutionize everything from the way we travel to the way we shop. They are exactly the kind of fields I want the U.K. to be leading in,” U.K. Science Minister Amanda Solloway said.

The Hartree Centre was opened in 2012 by UK Research and Innovation’s STFC as an HPC, data analytics, and AI research facility. It’s housed within Sci-Tech Daresbury’s laboratory for research in accelerator science, biomedicine, physics, chemistry, materials, engineering, computational science, and more.

The program is part of IBM’s Discovery Accelerator initiative to “accelerate discovery and innovation based on a convergence of advanced technologies” at research centers like HNCDI, the company said. This will be IBM’s first Discovery Accelerator research center in Europe.

Fostering innovation around the globe

As part of the HNCDI program, the STFC Hartree Center is joining over 150 global organizations, ranging from Fortune 500 companies to startups, with an IBM Hybrid Cloud-accessible connection to the IBM Quantum Network. The Quantum Network is the computing giant’s assembly of premium quantum computers and development tools. IBM will also provide access to its commercial and experimental AI products and tools for work in areas like material design, scaling and automation, supply chain logistics, and trusted AI applications, the company said.

IBM has been busy inking Discovery Accelerator deals with partners this year. The company last month made a $200 million investment in a 10-year joint project with the Grainger College of Engineering at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). As with the HNCDI in the U.K., the planned IBM-Illinois Discovery Accelerator Institute at UIUC will build out new research facilities and hire faculty and technicians.

Earlier this year, IBM announced a 10-year quantum computing collaboration with the Cleveland Clinic to build the computational foundation of the future Cleveland Clinic Global Center for Pathogen Research & Human Health. That project will see the installation of the first U.S.-based on-premises, private sector IBM Quantum System One, the company said. In the coming years, IBM also plans to install one of its first next-generation 1,000+ qubit quantum systems at another Cleveland client site.

The pandemic added urgency to the task of harnessing quantum computing, AI, and other cutting-edge technologies to help solve medicine’s most pressing problems, IBM chair and CEO Arvind Krishna said in March at the time of the Cleveland Clinic announcement.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has spawned one of the greatest races in the history of scientific discovery — one that demands unprecedented agility and speed,” Krishna said in a statement.

“At the same time, science is experiencing a change of its own — with high-performance computing, hybrid cloud, data, AI, and quantum computing being used in new ways to break through long-standing bottlenecks in scientific discovery. Our new collaboration with Cleveland Clinic will combine their world-renowned expertise in health care and life sciences with IBM’s next-generation technologies to make scientific discovery faster and the scope of that discovery larger than ever,” Krishna said.

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