Scottish universities secure €1.25 million funding for computing research

Friday 30 September 2011

Researchers at the University of St Andrews and Robert Gordon University have been awarded €1.25 million as part of a European Commission-funded project to undertake world-leading research to improve the programmability and performance of modern parallel computing technologies.

The €3.5 million ParaPhrase Project, supported by the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) for Research and Technological Development—the EU’s main instrument for funding research, will bring together expertise from academic institutions and industry specialists across five countries.

Commencing in October and set to run for 3 years, the project has allocated over €600,000 each to the University of St. Andrews’ School of Computer Science, which will be co-ordinating the project and Robert Gordon University’s Institute for Innovation, Design and Sustainability Research (IDEAS). It will be led by academics, researchers and PhD students of parallel computing and computational science.

In the last three decades, computer microprocessor speeds have increased almost 4,000 times with the rapid growth of modern technology. Today, users are starting to hit long-predicted physical limits on the speed of a single processor. With the emergence and development of mobile technology including smartphones and iPads, computing experts around the world are increasingly battling to provide a solution to match the speed that modern society demands of its computer processors.

Professor Kevin Hammond from the School of Computer Science at the University of St Andrews, comments, “Traditional computer design has hit a dead-end. Future computers will need to have thousands or even millions of cores and this represents an unprecedented challenge. The ParaPhrase Project will address this challenge, developing new ways of ‘thinking in parallel’ that will make it practical for normal software developers to harness the capabilities of new, advanced designs.

“The benefit to society is potentially enormous as computers become an essential part of modern-day infrastructure. These new designs will not only allow uses we can only imagine at the moment, such as household robots helping with daily chores, driverless vehicles which can improve road safety or provide low-cost rural transport, and household automation to improve the quality of life of the elderly, but will also dramatically reduce the cost and energy usage of computer devices.”

The ParaPhrase Project will look to exploit high performance computers effectively to support modern demands for computing power in business, industry, research and entertainment, optimising the coordination of processors working together ‘in parallel’ to obtain peak performance.

Dr Horacio González-Vélez, a Lecturer and Principal Investigator at RGU’s School of Computing, explains, “All contemporary devices and computers furnish one or more multi-core processors. While it’s great that you have a fast, multi-core processor in your iPad or smartphone, unless the applications on these technologies are able to take full advantage of the processors capabilities, users will not see any real improvement. Multiply this by the millions of devices in the world, and you will appreciate the overwhelming size of the challenge at hand.”

“In order to programme future computer systems to maximise their functionality, we must produce software now that is easy to write and still allows any current and future hardware to be used effectively.”

As well as benefits to mobile technology and multi-core PCs, the research has substantial implications for computing servers in industry, eventually enabling more efficient renewable energy production, faster video streaming, nimbler 3D-image modelling, and improved industrial production systems.

The project involves six academic institutions including St Andrews University, Robert Gordon University, the University of Stuttgart in Germany, Queens’ University Belfast, and the Universities of Torino and Pisa in Italy. Experts from industrial partners include Erlang Solutions Ltd in the UK, Mellanox Ltd in Israel and the Software Competence Centre in Austria.

For more information on the project, please visit


Issued by the Press Office, University of St Andrews
Contact Victoria Herd, Communications Assistant on 01334 462530 or email [email protected]
Ref: [paraphrase 300911]

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