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Sep 29 2018

EU to Spend One Billion on Supercomputers

If data is the new oil, like many economists assert, then supercomputers like Summit, Tianhe-2A, Piz Daint and Fujitsu's own ABCI are the equivalent of petroleum refineries: Just like those were necessary to turn crude oil into gasoline or bitumen, supercomputers are a mandatory investment for organizations that wish to translate raw data into useful, human-decipherable information.

Given this situation and the relative lack of top-ranking systems located in current and future EU member states, it's not much of a surprise to hear experts claim that the development of an independent European supercomputing infrastructure could use political backing as well as a massive cash infusion. This Friday, the message was finally also heard in Brussels when the European Commission's Competitiveness Council decided to adopt ab regulation (PDF) that would allow the countries to set up the European High Performance Computing Joint Undertaking, or EuroHPC. According to the official press release, the new initiative will pull in resources from 25 countries to build a "supercomputing and data infrastructure, and support research and innovation in the field involving scientists, businesses and industry." That way, the member states and their economies are supposed to gain better and faster access to supercomputing resources that are deemed necessary to (re-)invigorate and/or develop a competitive edge and innovative capabilities in areas where that's still possible. Strategically speaking, the effort is a must, because by its own admission, the EU currently consumes over 33% of supercomputing resources worldwide, but only contributes to them a total of 5%.

Per the official announcement, EuroHPC will receive funding in excess of €1 billion, with one half of the money coming from the union's budget and the other half being collected from the signatory states. Private partners are supposed to bankroll the project with another 400 million + x. EuroHPC will start working in November and focus on two key strategic goals:

  • Creating the nucleus of a Pan-European supercomputing infrastructure – to this end, the project will acquire and deploy two supercomputers that rank among the Top 5 globally and two more that make it into the Top 25. Today, the highest-ranking European system is Switzerland's Piz Daint at position #6, but Switzerland's not a EU member, so that doesn't count. Likewise, the six remaining supercomputers found in EU member states are basically national affairs – or more precisely, owned by private corporations and academic institutions. The new 'EU machines' will connect to these existing nodes and be made available throughout Europe, for use in more than 800 scientific and industrial application fields.
  • Establishing a European supercomputing ecosystem including a strong arm for research and innovation, in order to stimulate a supply industry and make supercomputing resources available to large numbers of users, including SMBs.

Signatory states that have joined the EuroHPC project are (in alphabetical order) Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain.


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