Tag: defra

UK gov splashes out £11m on climate change supercomputing

The British government is set to spend £11 million on IBM supercomputing capacity to model climate change more effectively.

As part of a £60 investment, the Department for Energy Climate Change (DECC) is looking to improve the UK’s ability to understand and prepare for climate change.

Much of the cash for development, around £50 million, will go to the Met Office Hadley Centre to aid climate research and modelling up to 2015.

Approximately £11 million has been spent on High Performance Computing.  This basically means supercomputing capacity and the hardware necessary for climate modelling. With a load of new kit, it seems that DECC is hoping to give an even more accurate reading of when the world’s penguin population will croak and just when progress can begin for vineyards in the Hull region.

According to DECC, the new investment has taken the form of eight supernodes (32 drawers) of IBM Power775 supercomputer servers.

It also includes data archive storage for extra HPC hardware – 33 petabytes of storage, three servers, 5760 media tapes and two tape frames.

The full DECC contribution was £7.43 million, for six supernodes, with the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) chipping in £3.76 million for two supernodes and the data archive storage.

The idea behind the climate modelling is to help make businesses understand threats better, and provide more evidence to support greater use of renewable energy.

Universities Minister David “Two Brains” Willets said that supercomputing is “fundamental to modern research”, especially with increasing data complexity.

TechEye approached the Met Office about ‘The Penguin Question’ – to find out what the supercomputer will do exactly, and whether it can give us a precise date for the ice caps melting – but we are yet to receive comment. 

Rare earth shortage prompts supply security action

With tensions over rare earth trade showing no signs of abating, DEFRA says that it is important to raise awareness of the threat to the supply chain.

Last week DEFRA launched a bid to increase recycling of the materials as a means of buffering against further potential price rises, following ongoing battles to increase Chinese quotas.  This followed concern that UK businesses could be affected following supply disruption since 2010.

“We know larger businesses are already aware, and taking action to address risks in their supply chains,” a DEFRA spokesperson told TechEye, “but the smaller businesses or those further down the supply chain may not be aware of the risks for some of the materials they use.

“In the case of SMEs they’re less likely to have considered resource efficiency etc as a way of reducing risk.”

With the ongoing WTO discussions with China over trading of rare earths, DEFRA is hoping for an agreement that will enable easier trading of the minerals.

China produces the overwhelming majority of rare earths, which despite the name are in fact plentiful.  But with China reducing the quotas of REs available to foreign countries, ostensibly for environmental reasons, the EU and US have taken the problem up with the WTO.

DEFRA says it hopes for stability resulting in a trade agreement, in order to help firms which use rare earths in manufacturing.

“We are supportive of the WTO case as we support free trade,” DEFRA says. “However we cannot speculate on what the result of this resolution will be.”

“China owns over 95 percent of world production of RE – we only import it in raw form in very small quantities but it’s contained in many of the products we import.”

“It can be significant for importers in the UK but probably more so for those companies for whom RE is in a component of manufacture.”

UK plans rare earth recycling project

The government is hoping that recycling rare earth materials could protect businesses in the UK from being buffeted by rising costs.

Against a backdrop of EU and US appeals to the World Trade Organisation regarding China’s relative monopoly over the valuable minerals, the government has launched an initiative to bolster security against fluctuating prices.

With China producing the vast majority of rare earths, UK businesses can feel the force of high demand.

In order to tackle this, the Resource Security Action Plan seeks to ensure that rare earths that do enter the UK supply chain, often through consumer electronics, are recycled more effectively.

It is expected that there will be aroud 12 million tonnes of electrical equipment to be dumped in the UK by 2020, much of it coming from PCs and laptops.  Within this mountain of binned electronics the government sees a treasure trove of rare earth materials that could offer protection from fluctuating prices.

Part of the problem is a ”lack of readily available information about resource risks which may affect UK businesses, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises”.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) says that there is not a particular fear that we will run out of rare earth materials anytime soon, but the problem of access, as production slowly moves away from China, remains a concern.

The plan proposes the launch of a “dashboard” to ensure that smaller businesses are aware of supply problems.

The government will also look to support innovative approaches to recycling rare earths, with a £200,000 fund on offer to support efforts by businesses.

DEFRA believes that there are potentially substantial financial benefits to be had in creating businesses which recycle rare earth materials. It will be working with groups such as the Technology Strategy Board to look at opportunities.

IBM and Prince Charles collaborate on sustainability forum

IBM has teamed up with His Royal Highness The Dashing Young Prince Charles to launch a mass-online forum tomorrow, aimed at sparking sustainability initiatives for the future of business.

Unlike the congestion charge software which hosted a Traffic Jam event, IBM’s software will be used to host the Start Jam event which will work with “senior decision makers” from a variety of firms including Citigroup, DEFRA, The Met Office, and Marks and Sparks to discuss the “next generation of sustainable business strategies” that will offer benefits to business as well as the environment.

Data analysis software will be provided during and after the event to identify and analyse the most interesting topics and provide a post-event report, which organisers hope will form a blueprint to implement sustainability in their business plans. There’s also a chance it’ll be rehashed into press releases which claims a certain percent of something agrees with a certain idea it wants promoting.

According to Charlie, crowdsourcing is one of the ways of generating ideas of sharing the problem faced by moving towards a more sustainable environment.

The six forums will invite participants to debate ideas and actions to inspire change, including how greater collaboration can be achieved between businesses to meet sustainability targets, how the “thought leaders” can drive a cultural change in sustainability attitudes and how to use analytic tools to draw conclusions from the increasing data on the subject.

Stephen Leonard, IBM’s UK and Ireland CEO, says that to achieve greater sustainability a more overarching approach is needed, which must be “balanced across the social and economic aspects of society as well as environmental”, stating that the Start Jam will bring UK business leaders together to “create a shared vision”.

The event is a 24 hour online forum running from 8am tomorrow until 5pm on Wednesday 7th and appears to be a continuation of the work done at the IBM Summit at Start, a nine day event held last September which also sought to promote sustainable living.

Also involved will be the WWF, B&Q, Ellen MacArthur Foundation, Global Action Plan, Business in the Community and Kingfisher which won’t be providing sustainable beers.



DEFRA superfast broadband funding may fall short

The government has announced that it will allocate up to £20 million to help bring  superfast broadband to rural communities.

The rural Community Broadband Fund set up by Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs  (DEFRA) will see funds will come from the Broadband Delivery UK’s (BDUK) £530m budget and the Rural Development Programme for England for community-based broadband projects.

Malcolm Corbett, CEO of Independent Networks Cooperative Association (INCA) reckons that the DEFRA share will also come from TV license money.

However, he raises concerns to TechEye that the funding might not be enough to ensure all rural areas get the benefits.

“While we’re pleased to see DEFRA putting in the money, these funds may not cover all areas,” Corbett told us.

“There’s been some issues surrounding who will cover all the costs and now the framework needs to be changed to allow communities to fund their own projects or be able to receive private funding on top of that provided by big providers such as BT and Virgin.” 

He also said it was unclear whether DEFRA’s allocation was new money or a repackaging of existing funding.

Announcing the plans, secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport, Jeremy Hunt said: “Remote and rural areas have the most to gain from access to broadband but these are the communities currently missing out.

“The whole of the UK should be able to share in the benefits of broadband and we are determined to make this happen by the end of the Parliament.”

DEFRA pointed out the importance of bringing mobile communications to rural communities, and said it hoped that fibre deployments and Ofcom’s 4G spectrum auctions will reduce coverage “not spots” in rural locations.

It said the rollout of fibre-based technology in hard to reach areas will potentially improve the availability of mobile networks, and make it more viable to provide wireless broadband services where they might otherwise not reach.  

Corbett agrees: “The availability of additional spectrum is also important in achieving new mobile broadband services, and that is why the government has directed Ofcom to run an auction of suitable spectrum as soon as possible.”

Mr Corbett added: “Fast reliable broadband is one of the biggest problems that many rural areas face. Local communities have long been setting up their own schemes in the face of apparent indifference from BT and a sometimes patchy response from the public sector.

“These initiatives have often achieved great results with very little resource and lead the way in thinking about how to create future-proofed next generation broadband solutions that involve the community – a genuine ‘Big Society’ response to tackling the problem.”