The decision was taken in the last Governing Board of the EuroHPC Joint Undertaking, in Luxembourg, on June, 7th 2019, where three different hosting sites for pre-exascale systems were selected: Bologna, Italy; Barcelona, Spain; and Kajaani, Finland.
The italian project was presented during a press conference held at the Ministry of Education, Universities and Research, with the Minister Marco Bussetti, the Director General DG Connect of the European Commission, Roberto Viola, and the President of CINECA, Giovanni Emanuele Corazza.
The Italian proposal was submitted by a joint Consortium with Slovenia, led by Cineca, and composed of the Ministry of Education, Universities and Research, the National Institute of Nuclear Physics (INFN) and by the International School of Advanced Studies (SISSA), with the support of the Emilia-Romagna Region.
"For Italy this news is a source of pride. It is the result of an important teamwork ", emphasized the Minister Marco Bussetti who expressed great satisfaction "for the result achieved". "This is an initiative in which I strongly believed from the first moment I took office at the Ministry, considering it strategic for our country, so as to allocate specific resources, 120 million euro", continued Minister Marco Bussetti.
"On the one hand, we are recognized as an undisputed leader in the field of high performance computing and enabling technologies in Europe, allowing us to take full advantage of the potential of Big Data, data analytics and artificial intelligence, just to name a few. On the other hand, the implementation of this infrastructure will have very positive repercussions in the development of basic and applied research activities of universities and public and private research centers, and at the level of private companies, creating a digital ecosystem adequate to accommodate new public and private investments in the most advanced sectors."
The Italian supercomputer, which will be hosted by Cineca at the Bologna Technopole, will have a peak power of 270 petaflops, and will be one of the 5 most powerful supercomputers in the world. The economic commitment will be of 240 million euro, divided in half between the Ministry (120 million euro, distributed over seven years 2019-2025) and EuroHPC (the remaining 120 million euro).
"This is the largest investment in supercomputing, in artificial intelligence, in the digital future of Europe and Italy", stated Roberto Viola, Director General of the Communication Networks, Content and Technology Department, of the European Commission. "We will invest around 900 million euro at European level in three major centres, including Bologna, and 5 medium-sized centres across Europe, to create a strategic digital infrastructure in Europe. The goal is to make the fastest supercomputers in the world. And the applications are endless. To give an example: today to synthesize a new drug it takes 300 years, with the new machine just half an hour. It is a great challenge for Europe and for Italy. We are happy to play this challenge together. Soon we will also enter the quantum race and hope to do this together too. Because the supercomputer race is the new space race. And we can win it if we put our strength together."
All European supercomputer centres will be interconnected with the European network GÉANT and, in Italy, the Bologna node will be connected with a double 100 Gbps connection with the GARR network. 50% of the computing power generated by the machine will be available to research institutes, universities and companies in the host country; the remainder will be used by the countries participating in the Joint Undertaking.
"This result, which comes just in the year of the fiftieth anniversary of the foundation of Cineca, is a source of great satisfaction. In fact, Cineca's mission has always been to provide high-performance supercomputing services to the national and European scientific community", declared Giovanni Emanuele Corazza, Cineca president. "With this recognition by the European Commission, Cineca confirms its central role in the context of technological innovation and is about to support Europe in the global challenge, in a confrontation that now goes beyond individual national borders and becomes continental. In fact, to be effective, investments will increasingly require synergy between European nations, in comparison with the United States, China and Japan, and the strengthening of collaboration between the institutions, the academic and research world, the industry sector. Cineca is ready to face this challenge, fulfilling its institutional mission, today and in the next few years, like fifty years ago when it was established thanks to the foresight of this Ministry."
The supercomputer will allow to carry out research in the field of personalized and predictive medicine, it will make weather forecasts more reliable and foresee catastrophic natural events. It will make it possible to develop new technological materials and carry out increasingly accurate research and mineral exploration, as well as interventions in the field of national security/cybersecurity and artificial intelligence.
The tender for the supercomputer acquisition is expected to start in the coming weeks. Installation, deployment and computer testing will start in the second half of 2020 and will be completed by the end of the same year.