How Supercomputing Can Boost Research And Development For SMEs

Supercomputing

Supercomputing is a form of technology that many small to medium business owners consider out of reach. But access to supercomputing doesn’t have to be limited to large companies with big spending power. Although traditionally the preserve of blue chip companies and academia, SMEs certainly can benefit from the power of high performance computing.

The advanced technology can power breakthroughs in product, process or service development, strengthening a business’ position in the market and boosting competitiveness. In an increasingly pressurised global market, supercomputing can help small businesses make the forward strides that can make a lasting difference.

So What Exactly is Supercomputing?

If you have ever shopped in Asda, watched a TV weather forecast or enjoyed the latest Dreamworks studio animation at the cinema, then you have unknowingly enjoyed the power of supercomputing technology.

Compared to the types of computers most of us are used to, supercomputers are beyond anything you can imagine in terms of processing power and capacity, capable of performing complex and high-volume calculations at top speeds. First introduced in the 1960s, today they have evolved into substantial machines running off tens of thousands of processors, and are used for highly calculation-intensive tasks such as weather forecasting.

Asda parent company WalMart uses supercomputers for inventory and distribution modelling, to ensure their millions of items of stock are in the right store at the right time, while the wonder of this technology brought much-loved characters such as Shrek to the big screen.

Despite the fact that some of the biggest brands in the world use supercomputers, businesses of any size can benefit from the technology, as it can be adapted to suit a wide range of applications.

How Can Supercomputing Boost Research and Development in Small to Medium Businesses?

Supercomputers have many applications that are invaluable to business, including advanced modelling and simulation, performing complex calculations and rendering high-definition 3D graphics.

Advanced modelling and simulation allows companies to innovate and improve existing products and services, giving them a competitive edge through more efficient product design, increased data analysis or improved manufacturing processes.

It means that new designs can be analysed and evaluated without physical models, and any design refinements required can easily be tested. Tests can be repeated with different parameters until the desired result or outcome is achieved.

The obvious benefit is that this considerably reduces the time, labour and cost involved in bringing products to market, while improving research and development capabilities.

For example, a south Wales SME is using supercomputing to develop the next generation of implantable micro-pumps for the treatment of heart failure. The firm is making extensive use of computer modelling and simulation in its research and development, which significantly reduces the product development phase and, consequently, the time it takes to get their product to market.

It’s clear to see that supercomputing has a valuable role to play in boosting the competitive capability of SMEs in a wide range of sectors. The investment it is currently being given by Government is testament to its perceived value to the future of British business.

How Can Businesses Find out More About Using Supercomputing Technology?

While purchasing a dedicated supercomputer is clearly out of the reach of most small companies, there are now a number of services in the UK where companies can purchase server time and access dedicated training and support.

Supercomputing services across the UK are expanding the amount of support available in recognition of the fact that many businesses have no experience of using this technology, meaning you don’t need any previous experience of supercomputing to enjoy its benefits.

Prior to his appointment as the Chief Executive Officer of HPC Wales, David Craddock was Director of Enterprise and Collaborative Projects at Aberystwyth University, responsible for leading a team of over thirty and developing the enterprise strategy for the University. Working with the senior management team, David also led a number of change management programmes including business planning for the Aberystwyth/Bangor Partnership, and the merger of the BBSRC research funded institute IGER into the University. A BA (Hons) graduate from Middlesex University, David previously worked for two Unilever companies over a 23 year period, mainly in international marketing, product development and business development roles in the detergent and speciality chemicals markets. In addition, he has been Director of two SMEs in the technical textile and electrical engineering markets.