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The Chancellor outlined the history of supercomputing at Cambridge

Thursday 19 March 2015: The West Cambridge Data Centre officially opened by the University's Chancellor, Lord Sainsbury.

Over forty University dignitaries, including some Heads of Schools and representatives from UIS, Cambridge Assessment and the High Performance Computing Servive (HPCS) attended the launch event, held in the West Cambridge Data Centre. This bespoke world-class facility will support business operations, teaching and learning, and research at Cambridge for years to come, and provide scope for the improved management of data, and sharing of expertise across disparate disciplines.


The University houses one of the UK’s leading High Performance Computing centres, now part of the new UIS organisation, and this significant data centre investment provides the vital infrastructure required to allow the High Performance Computing Service to meet the ever growing demands of the Cambridge research community, keeping Cambridge at the leading edge of High Performance Computing and data analytics innovation.

Lord Sainsbury, Chancellor of the University of Cambridge

Professor Jeremy Sanders, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Institutional Affairs welcomed our guests, who were then given an overview of some of the world-leading research projects whose data is being stored and processed in the new facility. HPCS' flagship projects include The Square Kilometer Array, the world's most ambitious IT project and the largest global Big Data challenge; the multinational Planck Satellite, which takes very sensitive Cosmic Microwave Background measurements of the very early universe and requires large amounts of data analysis; the 20K Genome project, for which the HPCS is providing all the data storage and computational resource for a genomics study of 20,000 deceased patients.

Simon Lebus, CEO of Cambridge Assessment (CA), then spoke about the institution’s data infrastructure. Professor Willem Ouwehand from the Department of Haematology followed with a talk about the 100,000 Genomes Project, which aims at radically reducing the time taken to diagnose rare diseases and develop genomic medicines, and for which Cambridge is generating and analysing Big Genome Data. Professor Ron Horgan of DAMTP-CMS, talked about how advances in computational science are enabling particle physicists to explore the history of the universe.

Martin Bellamy, Director of UIS, gave an address charting the history of computing at Cambridge from its beginnings of a single mainframe supercomputer in the 1980s to its new world-class facility, placing the data centre project in context of the higher education sector. He went on to outline how the newly-formed UIS department is helping to underpin excellence in teaching, learning and research at Cambridge.

Lord Sainsbury of Turville spoke about how the investment in this transformative infrastructure was made possible as a result of a successful partnership between the academic University and Cambridge Assessment, enabling a pooling of resources and combined technical vision, leading to the construction of one of the most capable, secure and energy-efficient data centres within the UK higher education sector.

The University has one of the largest research and development budgets in the UK education sector, devoting 40 per cent of its £1,438M annual revenue to funding advances in the fields of astronomy, genomics, medicine, physics and many more. The West Cambridge Data Centre represents a £20M investment by the University. Its outstanding capacity, efficiency, resilience and security are setting new standards for Cambridge, and the higher education sector.

To conclude the proceedings, Lord Sainsbury unveiled a plaque to commemorate the official opening, before visitors were given a tour of the new facility.

The day’s presentations have been recorded, and will be available to view soon.