The UK’s Technology Strategy Board (TSB), has launched a competition for a share of £1.25m in funding for feasibility studies to demonstrate the application of energy efficient computing in a commercial setting.
The TSB, which is supported and funded by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) and other government departments, was set up to stimulate technology-enabled innovation in the areas which offer the greatest scope for boosting UK growth and productivity. For this funding competition the TSB is partnered by the Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and Defence Science & Technology Laboratory (DSTL).
The TSB is particularly keen to attract smaller IT companies who may be more preoccupied with reducing product costs and not aware that the answer may be in the improved energy efficiency of their systems. Focusing on that aspect could win them a share of the £1.25m funding available.
It’s the broadest and one of the most lucrative competitions the TSB has run. Energy efficient computing covers various fields and the areas that competition entrants might work in include (among others):
Parallel and multicore computing - finding ways to turn off a processor when it’s not in use
Devices – making batteries last longer
Producers of tools for those writing software – aimed at optimising software efficiency
High performance computing (HPC) – reducing the electricity bill
Data centres – e.g. writing smart software to utilise resources in more energy efficient ways.
The initiative is open to all UK-based companies and research organisations. Projects must be led by a business, of any size, and be undertaken by a consortium comprising at least two partners (either academia or business). Projects which address both hardware and software aspects of energy efficiency are particularly welcome. Grants of up to £100k are available and each project is expected to last between six and 18 months.
There are more details on the funding and how to apply here, but don’t hang about – registration of interest has to be in by November 28.
Review: The TSB is keen to get the word out about the competition, so if you know anyone that could benefit then let them know. (I know of one company who might be interested).
The emphasis on small companies is also a good move. As the TSB points out, the larger IT firms – the Intels and Googles of this world – have already been investing heavily in energy efficient systems. But, from what I’ve seen, there is much innovation coming from smaller start-ups that are looking at the issues in a different way. I’m hopeful that this competition could throw up some gems.
The TSB’s lead technologist Jonathan Mitchener also made some interesting points about the challenge of getting the various disparate fields within the technological community talking to one another:
“Occasionally, there is a company, like Apple, where the hardware and software departments do talk to each other, and that’s why it works. But typically engineers and computer scientists don’t work together. In some areas, such as performance perhaps, this hasn’t been a problem. It’s generally characteristic of how the industry works. Technology is nowhere near as integrated as manufacturing and this is a result of education, because people do either electronic engineering or they do computer science. They don’t really cross over that much. But if you have separate hardware and software all the time, this can cause problems, especially for energy efficiency.”
A good point, and the reason why the TSB is looking favourably on projects that include both hardware and software.