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EU looks to spend EUR 1bn on supercomputer plan

11 January 2018, 23:55 CET
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EU looks to spend EUR 1bn on supercomputer plan

Supercomputers - Image Blue Gene - PFrom Argonne National Laboratory

(BRUSSELS) - The European Commission unveiled Thursday its plans to invest jointly with the Member States in building a world-class European supercomputers infrastructure.

Supercomputers process ever larger amounts of data and are seen as bringing benefits to society in areas from health care and renewable energy to car safety and cybersecurity.

The Commission says its initiative is essential for the EU's competitiveness and independence in the data economy. It cites the fact that European scientists and industry increasingly process their data outside the EU because their needs are not matched by the computation time or computer performance available in the EU. This lack of independence, it says, threatens privacy, data protection, commercial trade secrets, and ownership of data in particular for sensitive applications.

A new legal and funding structure – the EuroHPC Joint Undertaking – will acquire, build and deploy across Europe a world-class High-Performance Computing (HPC) infrastructure. It will also support a research and innovation programme to develop the technologies and machines (hardware) as well as the applications (software) that would run on these supercomputers.

The EU's contribution to EuroHPC will be around EUR 486 million under the current Multiannual Financial Framework, matched by a similar amount from Member States and associated countries. Overall, around EUR 1 billion of public funding would be invested by 2020, and private members of the initiative would also add in kind contributions.

"The EU is lagging behind," said Andrus Ansip, Commission Vice-President for the Digital Single Market: "Supercomputers are the engine to power the digital economy. It is a tough race and today we do not have any supercomputers in the world's top-ten. With the EuroHPC initiative we want to give European researchers and companies world-leading supercomputer capacity by 2020 – to develop technologies such as artificial intelligence and build the future's everyday applications in areas like health, security or engineering."

High-Performance Computing helps with understanding and responding to major scientific and societal challenges such as early detection and treatment of diseases or developing new therapies based on personalised and precision medicine. HPC is also used for preventing and managing large-scale natural disasters, notably for forecasting the paths which the hurricanes are following or for earthquake simulations.

The EuroHPC infrastructure will provide European industry and in particular small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with a better access to supercomputers to develop innovative products. The use of High Performance Computing has a growing impact on industries and businesses by significantly reducing product design and production cycles, accelerating the design of new materials, minimising costs, increasing resource efficiency and shortening and optimising decision processes. For example, car production cycles can be reduced thanks to supercomputers from 60 months to 24 months.

High-Performance Computing is also seen as essential for national security and defence, for example when developing complex encryption technologies, tracking and responding to cyberattacks, deploying efficient forensics or in nuclear simulations.

Today's initiative will pool investments to establish leading European supercomputers and big data infrastructure. The EuroHPC Joint Undertaking aims to acquire systems with pre-exascale performance (a hundred million billion or 1017 calculations per second), and support the development of exascale (a billion billion or 1018 calculations per second), performance systems based on EU technology, by 2022-2023.

The activities of the Joint Undertaking will consist of:

  • Acquisition and operation of two world-class pre-exascale supercomputing machines and at least two mid-range supercomputing machines (capable of around 1016 calculations per second), and providing and managing access to these supercomputers to a wide range of public and private users starting from 2020.
  • Research and innovation programme on HPC: to support the development of European supercomputing technology including the first generation of European low-power microprocessor technology, and the co-design of European exascale machines, and to foster applications, skills development and a wider use of High-Performance Computing.

The EuroHPC Joint Undertaking will operate in 2019-2026. The planned infrastructure will be jointly owned and operated by its members consisting at first of the countries that have signed the EuroHPC declaration (list below) and private members from academia and industry. Other members can join this cooperation at any moment, provided their financial contribution.

High-Performance Computing and EuroHPC initiative

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