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IBM ‘virtual supercomputer’ wins for humanitarian innovation

1011692_glassballs_on_a_gridIBM’s “virtual supercomputer” for humanitarian research — the World Community Grid — has earned the company Business in the Community’s (BITC) Coffey International Award, which recognises innovative programmes designed to help meet one of the United Nations’ Millenium Development Goals.

HRH The Prince of Wales, President of BITC, presented awards to IBM, 13 other businesses and two individuals during a ceremony yesterday at his home, Clarence House.

IBM’s World Community Grid operates using the aggregated spare computing capacity of 1.3 million PCs belonging to 460,000 volunteers from over 200 countries.

“The scale, significance, power and potential of World Community Grid is impressive,” said Charles Duff, corporate development manager for Coffey International Limited and chair of judges. “IBM has collaborated with a wide spectrum of research partners and encouraged businesses, community groups and individuals to provide free computational capacity to support international humanitarian projects.”

“A lot of important scientific research isn’t happening,” said Larry Hirst of IBM. “It lacks the funding for the supercomputing capacity that is needed to execute large and complex calculations. World Community Grid changes the rules. It’s free and available to both public and not for profit organizations for use in humanitarian research that might not otherwise be performed.”

Among the projects that World Community Grid has supported so far are research into drugs for AIDS, dengue fever and childhood cancer; finding more nutritious strains of rice; identifying better diagnoses for cancer; creating lower-cost and more efficient solar cells; and improving climate models to help farmers in Africa.

World Community Grid also ties in with IBM’s recently announced “Smarter Planet” vision, in which systems from utility grids to healthcare can be made to work better as a result of increased data, interconnected networks and greater embedded intelligence.

Other 2009 BITC award winners include:

  • United Utilities: Company of the Year;
  • REDEEM: Small Company of the Year;
  • Pinsent Masons LLP: Bank of America Merrill Lynch Education Award;
  • Rhondda Housing Association: Active Communities Award;
  • Project Shoreditch: Deutsche Bank, Linklaters, UBS in partnership with East London Business Alliance (ELBA) & the Shoreditch Trust Limited: Power in Partnership Award;
  • The Co-operative Group: The Asda Environmental Leadership Award;
  • Marks  & Spencer: Bank of America Climate Change Award;
  • Supreme Creations: Supply Chain Award;
  • Thames Water Utilities Ltd.: P&G Responsible Marketing & Innovation Award;
  • Network Rail: Serco Talent Award;
  • Merseytravel: nPower Skills for Life Award;
  • Royal Mail Group Ltd.: Healthy Workplace Award; and
  • Riverford Organic Vegetables: Northern Foods Rural Action Award.

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