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Osborne Clarke advises Microsoft on multimillion-pound Met Office supercomputer

Met office

Lawyers at Osborne Clarke in Bristol have advised Microsoft in the provision of a world-leading weather and climate supercomputing capability and managed service to the Met Office for advanced weather forecasting and climate modelling.

The government announced in April that it had signed the multimillion-pound agreement with Microsoft.

The new supercomputer – expected to be the world’s most advanced dedicated to weather and climate – will be in the top 25 supercomputers in the world and be twice as powerful as any other in the UK.

The data it generates will be used to provide more accurate warnings of severe weather, helping to build resilience and protect the UK population, businesses and infrastructure from the impacts of increasingly extreme storms, floods and snow.

It will also be used to take forward climate change modelling, unleashing the full potential of the Met Office’s global expertise in climate science. The precision and accuracy of its modelling will help to inform Government policy as part of the UK’s fight against climate change, and its efforts to reach net zero by 2050.

It follows the announcement by Government in February 2020 which committed £1.2 billion of funding to develop this state-of-the-art supercomputer.

The £1 billion-plus supercomputer and key supporting digital infrastructure will increase the Exeter-based Met Office’s processing capacity sixfold over the ten-year operational term. This will be instrumental in keeping the Met Office at the forefront of meteorological forecasting (it is one of only two World Area Forecast Centres).

Osborne Clarke advised Microsoft on all aspects of the prime contract and the procurement process. The team worked with the Microsoft’s legal teams across the UK, Ireland and US to advise the business on the opportunity. It also advised on a number of the initial sub-contracts.

The team was led by Bristol-based projects and infrastructure partner Simon Hancock and commercial/IT senior associate Matt Sharkey. Procurement advice was led by procurement partner Catherine Wolfenden together with partner Craig McCarthy and senior associate Kate Davies. IP advice was led by litigation legal director Douglas Peden. Prime contract and sub-contracts lawyers were projects associates David Smith and Kristen Harris, and Millie Smith and Emma V Kelly.

Simon Hancock said: “This was a unique procurement in terms of the pace of the well-run competitive process and the complexity.

“It was great to work as a key partner to Microsoft as part of the wider bid team on this project and share our expertise of public sector contracting (including the CCS’s model services contract) and digital infrastructure to help Microsoft successfully commence this long-term relationship with the Met Office.”

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