HPC and hyperfast applications are drivers for the fifth industrial revolution, says EU Commissioner Mariya Gabriel

European Commissioner Mariya Gabriel
19 Apr 2018 Sofia - At the Bulgarian Presidency event on "Shaping Europe's Digital Future - HPC for Extreme Scale Scientific and Industrial Applications" in Sofia, Bulgaria, on April 19, 2018, Mariya Gabriel, European Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, held an opening speech on the role of high performance computing (HPC) for Europe, its citizens and enterprises.

"Distinguished Prime Minister Borisov, ladies and gentlemen, ministers, your excellencies dear participants and guests, I will not hide the fact that I'm a greatly excited for being here with you today to discuss this revolutionary technology which has a huge impact on our life today and in the future: HPC supercomputing. I would like to thank the Bulgarian Presidency, the Council of the European Union, and the Bulgarian Prime Minister for their commitment to organize this event along with the European Commission. This event will serve as a platform for debate. The main focus will be on how HPC will contribute to the digital future of Europe and on what exactly is the role of HPC for the people and for enterprises.

I would like to thank the Prime Minister of Bulgaria Borisov for being here today. This constitutes a message that Bulgaria is ready, that Bulgaria has the potential and a desire to be a driver in achieving this common goal of EuroHPC. The fifth Industrial Revolution is here, and it has no precedent in human history. It will not wait for us. Its drivers are HPC and hyperfast applications on a global scale. If we don't keep up with its pace, Europe is at risk of lagging behind its competitors from other continents. This is why this conference is so essential and I'm very happy that it is held in my home country Bulgaria. Bulgaria is the country that gave to the world digital champions such as Jonathan Azov, Ivan Angelov and Anton Antanazov.

This conference will present our efforts at European level in support of HPC which is a strategic priority in the political agenda of the European Commission. I'm convinced that many of you are aware of how important HPC is for the development of science and industry and how important it is to bring Europe back to a leading position.

Worldwide, HPC is recognized as the key to the digital transformation of industry and society. It contributes to making traditional sectors of economy more innovative and highly performing and of having a higher added value. On the other hand, new businesses and start-ups develop applications of higher added value thanks to the effective merge of HPC with other technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) or Big Data analysis. HPC is at the core of digital transformation of science. It allows for leading research centres to give answers to fundamental scientific questions, to make new discoveries and scientific achievements. Nowadays, over 700 scientific applications count on HPC. HPC is a strategic resource in developing computer software, in making these managerial decisions in sustaining our economic and scientific independence. The policies that we need to develop in areas such as health care, personalized medicine, energy and climate, count on HPC simulations.

This is why we pose the question today: 'What does the European Union do in order to benefit from all the achievements that HPC offers us?'. To be honest, today our competitors such as the US and China, knowing the strategic importance of HPC, are advancing and investing huge amounts of money in technologies for supercomputers and we do not have this HPC value that corresponds to our high economic potential. None of the 10 fastest supercomputers is based within the European Union and we use 30% of HPC worldwide but our industry provides for only 5% of this technology. This is why we have committed ourselves to changing this situation. We are developing a pan-European strategy for HPC so that Europe could soon get back to a position among the three superpowers worldwide. Now 16 countries, including Bulgaria, share this ambition and these countries work on setting up the EuroHPC Joint Undertaking. These countries have committed to investing in a world-class infrastructure for HPC. I'm sure that a lot of countries will follow.

This initiative will help us achieve a strategic mission building an overall European ecosystem for HPC and Big Data. This includes three main goals:

1. purchase the machines;

2. use them to their full potential; and

3. base them on European technology.

What does this mean? Firstly, to acquire world-class HPC systems and set up HPC services that are accessible to a large number of users from the academia, SMEs and the public sector. Secondly, to have top performance in HPC by working on developing digital skills, and thirdly, to establish our own proprietary independent competitive HPC technology and delivery systems, including the future Quantum technology.

On this last item, I must emphasize that it is key to invest in developing micro-processors to make sure that we have our own HPC technology. Only a month ago, we selected a consortium, the European Processor Initiative, that will soon launch a processor with great features. This will allow key competencies in developing and designing high quality chips be retained in Europe. HPC will be at the core of the development of our future exaflop/s machines and this will support the growth of industries such as automotive manufacturing. On the other hand, having this microprocessor we should be sure that these machines will be easily accessible and usable for users.

Having said that, I find it extremely important to continue working very hard along with the Bulgarian presidency for setting up pilot Centres of Excellence that will facilitate the access of the industry, the academia and the public administration for the HPC services offered.

Allow me now to delve into our Joint Undertaking and of the next steps. First of all, the discussions in the Council have made progress and I hope that the EuroHPC Joint Undertaking will be approved by the end of the period. I would like to thank the Bulgarian presidency for the efforts invested and for the good work that we did together and I'm convinced that before the end of the Bulgarian Presidency, more progress will have been made. There will be a positive outcome by the European Commission. Let me emphasize that there are special benefits that supercomputers will bring to Europe because it is crucial for everyone, for the industry, for the SMEs, for science and research institutions, and for the public sector in all EU Member States, especially in those that have no HPC centre or national infrastructure in this area.

You may wonder how this will be achieved and what the specific benefits will be. Just think for a while about the major scientific challenges, to understand for instance the human brain. The Human Brain Project cannot attain its ambitious goals without having access to the interactive world-class HPC systems that are needed for the simulation and visualization of the massive data that is contained in the human brain. We have with us professor Katrin Amunts. It is a great honour for me to have her here, because she will bring the European expertise and she will indicate how helpful HPC can be. Thanks to the experience gained in Europe we can make advancement in diseases such as cancer, diabetes and auto-immune diseases.

All of this is achievable only if we work together. No single EU Member State has the financing required to acquire exaflop/s capacity and develop the ecosystem required for competing with China, the US or Japan. The risk is, that if we do not act swiftly now, the data developed and published by the European research sectors and industry have be processed outside of Europe, making us even more dependent on computing carried out outside of Europe. In the long run, this carries the risk of European research and investments being transferred to areas where they have access to HPC. This is why our long-term mission and goals are clear: to back up the establishment of EuroHPC and have results and visible outcomes, not only in the next couple of years, but in 15 or 20 years of time.

We may wonder what resources do we have available to attain this? As you can imagine EuroHPC requires solid investments. Our plan is that for the period 2019-2020, over 1 billion euro should be invested, along with the EU Member States, so as to back up the development of two exaflop/s machines, several mid-range HPC systems and exascale technology. This is only a good start though, because several billions of euro have been allocated in the next multi-annual financial framework for the period 2021-2028. This financial commitment will allow us to acquire two exaflop/s machines by 2023 with at least one of them containing European technology. Then we will have the first post exaflop/s machines. This will include support for setting up and coordination and networking of the Centres of Competence for HPC technologies.

You may wonder why we need these centres. As a matter of fact, we need them in order to give answers to two main issues. Firstly to expand the use of HPC technology; on the other hand to overcome the gap in HPC skills. This is why the centres will work locally to provide knowledge and computing services to various organisations and SMEs that do not have the resources and the skills to benefit from new technologies. They will also be part of the European response to overcoming the digital skills gap. It is our obligation to provide access to such expertise for every region. This is how we will be able to overcome the shortage of well-prepared personnel. Let me remind you that currently there are over 350.000 jobs in the area of ICT in the EU. In 2020, there will be 500.000. Let me also remind you of the pilot project 'Digital Capability' associated with digital skills development. This initiative will help us provide for cross-border apprenticeship for the period of 2019-2020 for 6000 students and graduates. The European Commission has invested 10 million euro to offer to students from all areas of expertise to have access to Quantum computing, HPC, Cybersecurity and Blockchain.

Allow me to continue by saying that our dreams will not stop here. In May, as part of the of the annual amount of the next multi-annual financial framework, I will propose that HPC should be associated with other priorities such as AI, Cybersecurity, digitalization of public services and digital skills. HPC can contribute to the development of ICT that is more resilient to cyberattacks and, along with Quantum technologies, can assess and validate hypersecure encrypted communication. Some portion of this concerns the national security of EU Member States and of the Union as a whole.

These are the initiatives and the Centres of Competence on HPC technologies, cybersecurity and the digital innovative hubs, are a unique possibility for Eastern Europe to make a step forward and benefit from the advancement of these key technologies. We should utilize all these advantages since Europe is a world leader in research parallel programming and Bulgaria could benefit from its long term experience and traditions in HPC and their applications to perform a key role in Europe and the Western Balkans in key areas such as genomics, weather forecasts, biomedicine, material science, molecular dynamics and new medical trials.

Let me say one more thing. The human potential of South Eastern Europe is extraordinary. My ambition is that the new digital programme will make it possible for this potential to grow and expand and bring out new technologies and innovative services. Dear Prime Minister, dear ministers, ladies and gentlemen, there were alternated periods of enthusiasm and disappointment over the past decades. Now, we are in a period of advancement and we can back it up with success stories. I truly believe that with your support we will be able to make the EuroHPC Joint Undertaking successful. This is a very ambitious European initiative but I am convinced that we have the potential to implement it and I call upon you to join forces and achieve our common goal: to bring back the leading position for Europe in digital economies.

Thank you very much I wish you fruitful discussions and I look forward to being a part of them."

Source: European Commission and Bulgarian Presidency