British scientists took their first steps into a brave new computing world this week, following an award of £5.5 million to Edinburgh and Glasgow universities to set up a national e-science centre.
The centre, to be located in Edinburgh, will coordinate developments that use the Grid - the successor to the worldwide web.
Funding for the initiative was announced by John Taylor, director general of the research councils, as part of the joint e-Science core initiative.
Tony Hey, director of the e-Science core programme, said: "This is the first step towards a global system that will make sharing information and resources across disciplines and across entire continents faster and easier than anyone previously thought possible."
Edinburgh will supervise the setting up of a national network of shared computing resources and information. It will launch and manage a £3 million programme of collaborative projects with a further £3 million from industry.
It will also establish an e-science institute that will run a seminar programme focusing on international multidisciplinary research.
The regional centres will be based at the universities of Belfast, Cambridge, Cardiff, Manchester and Southampton and Imperial College London.
These centres will provide superfast computers, genome and other databases and facilities such as satellites, for scientists developing Grid applications.
More than 30 international companies have expressed interest in the e-Science developments, including IBM and Sun Microsystems.