EU ministers commit to digitising Europe with high-performance computing power

Carmen Vela, Secretary of State for Research, Development and Innovation - Spain at signing the declaration (photo, EC)23 Mar 2017 Rome - Today in Rome ministers from seven European countries - France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain - have signed a declaration to support the next generation of computing and data infrastructures, a European project of the size of Airbus in the 1990s and of Galileo in the 2000s. They plan to establish EuroHPC for acquiring and deploying an integrated world-class high-performance computing infrastructure capable of at least 10**18 calculations per second - so-called exascale computers. This will be available across the EU for scientific communities, industry and the public sector, no matter where the users are located.

Andrus Ansip, European Commission Vice-President for the Digital Single Market welcomed this important step: "High-performance computing is moving towards its next frontier - more than 100 times faster than the fastest machines currently available in Europe. But not all EU countries have the capacity to build and maintain such infrastructure, or to develop such technologies on their own. If we stay dependent on others for this critical resource, then we risk getting technologically 'locked', delayed or deprived of strategic know-how. Europe needs integrated world-class capability in supercomputing to be ahead in the global race. Today's declaration is a great step forward. I encourage even more EU countries to engage in this ambitious endeavour."

High-performance computing (HPC) involves thousands of processors working in parallel to analyse billions of pieces of data in real time. HPC allows to design and new drugs and simulate their effects, and provide faster diagnosis, better treatments and personalised health care. It can make our communications and online financial transactions more secure and can help clean-energy production, by making for example, wind farm operations based on accurate weather forecasts.

At the moment, EU industry provides about 5% of HPC resources worldwide, but consumes one third of them. In April 2016 in the European Cloud Initiative - part of the EU's strategy to digitise European industry - the Commission urged Member States to step up cooperation in HPC to boost Europe's scientific capabilities and industrial competitiveness. It also committed to develop a high-performance computing ecosystem based on European technology, including low power chips. The goal is to have exascale supercomputers based on European technology in the global top 3 by 2022.

World-class infrastructure will also support the European Open Science Cloud, which will offer Europe's 1.7 million researchers and 70 million science and technology professionals a virtual environment to store, share and re-use their data across disciplines and borders. Focusing initially on the scientific community, the user base of the cloud will over time be enlarged to the public and to businesses.

The EU Member States signing the EuroHPC declaration agree to work towards the establishment of a multi-government cooperation framework for acquiring and deploying an integrated supercomputing infrastructure of the next generation. Other Member States are encouraged to join in the future to work together and with the European Commission in this initiative.

The challenge ahead is for Member States in coordination with the European Commission to prepare an implementation roadmap to deploy the European exascale supercomputing infrastructure. This roadmap should address aspects involved in the HPC supply chain from operational requirements to the development of high-quality competitive European technology. It will also tackle the pooling of public and private resources for acquiring and operating the infrastructure. The target is to have by 2020 at least two pre-exascale computers and reach full exascale performance by 2023. The objective is also to define test-beds for HPC and big data applications that make use of these supercomputers for scientific, public administration and industrial purposes.

HPC is developing to cope with the constant increase in data volumes and flows. A recent report projects that annual global IP traffic will reach 2.3 zettabytes by 2020 - or 504 billion DVDs per year. For example EU's Copernicus programme produces vast amounts of rich Earth observation data used both in science and in environmental monitoring and agricultural planning. HPC is essential to make use of that data to improve the reliability of weather predictions and extreme events such as tropical cyclones.

HPC has also a pivotal role in supporting the digital industrial revolution, which is deeply transforming traditional industries, how engineers collaborate and explore new design and technical solutions. For example, in the automotive and aerospace industries, Computer Aided Engineering and design of new aircrafts and cars is carried out through large scale simulation instead of or in addition to physical testing. HPC has enabled European automakers to increase productivity by reducing the time for the development of new vehicle platforms from an average 60 months to 24 months while greatly improving safety - so reducing fatalities, environmental friendliness, and passenger comfort. HPC plays a key role in reducing the environmental impact of planes. The design of the Airbus A380 has used aerodynamics simulation and HPC to carry twice as many passengers for the same noise level, using less than 3 litres of fuel per person per 100 km and less than 75g of CO2 per person per km. With access to HPC, small and medium enterprises have also the possibility to reduce development costs in specialised areas, including through modelling and simulation.

The European Commission is investing 700 million euro from the Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme in a Public Private Partnership (PPP) on high-performance computing to research and develop technologies and applications for the next generation of supercomputers. It is expected that the PPP will leverage a similar amount of resources in the private side. The European Commission also invests in PRACE - Partnership for Advanced Computing in Europe - to enable high impact scientific discovery and engineering research and development across all disciplines enhancing European competitiveness for the benefit of society.

Source: European Commission