Two new supercomputers Emerald and Iridis 3 systems were unveiled at the Science and Technology Facilities Council's Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) at an event that also launched the Oxford University-led e-Infrastructure South Consortium that will run both supercomputers.

The two supercomputers will help scientists tackle challenges across a range of disciplines, and businesses to develop new technologies, the Engineering and Physics Science Research Council (EPSRC) reported.

The supercomputers will, among other things, crunch data to help researchers understand diseases such as swine flu, find pulsars as part of the Square Kilometre Array project, model climate change, simulate 3G and 4G communications networks, and develop new tools for processing medical images.

The e-Infrastructure South Consortium comprises the universities of Oxford, Bristol, and Southampton, and University College London, working with RAL. The Consortium will share access to the facilities, provide an infrastructure for the development of data-driven software, and help to train the next generation of scientists and engineers.

According to Scientific Computing, both supercomputers have been funded by a £3.7 million grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

"These two new supercomputers form part of the Government's £145 million investment in e-infrastructure and will be invaluable assets to business and universities. They will drive growth and innovation, encourage inward investment in the UK and keep us at the very leading edge of science," Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts MP stated.

Some of the local businesses that will benefit from use of the supercomputers include Numerical Algorithms Group, Schlumberger Abingdon and InhibOx. The computers based within the Consortium's research-intensive universities will enable better training and recruitment of world-class research talent, help develop new research ideas, and speed up the rate at which complex data can be processed.

"The high set-up costs both in terms of equipment and expertise can be a major barrier to SMEs expanding into newer or bigger markets," said Professor Anne Trefethen of Oxford University.

She said the new centre will make it easier for them to step up into the next league. In turn, the supercomputers will help university-led researchers work with industrial partners to develop and test innovative new products and technologies.