Facing challenges that require computational power as an SME? Try Fortissimo.

24 Jun 2014 Leipzig - In the session on HPC Cloud-based simulation services for Mid Caps and SMEs at ISC'14 in Leipzig, Mark Parsons from EPCC in Edinburgh, presented Fortissimo, a project within the European Commission's I4MS initiative. The goal of Fortissimo is to bring HPC solutions to SMEs across Europe.

Fortissimo is offering a Cloud of HPC resources to solve SMEs' business challenges. It is one of the I4MS projects withing the "Factories of the Future" initiative. The project is complementing generic SME initiatives in the FP7 Programme of the European Union and offers specific support to deliver economic growth through modelling and simulation. The focus is on problem solving, Mark Parsons explained.

Mark Parsons expanded on the financial plan and told the audience that the costs amount to 22 million euro, with 16 million of EC funding. Fortissimo has 45 partners that will grow to over 100 over the 3 year duration of the project.

Twenty initial experiments with SMEs have started and each experiment has 2 to 4 partners. The funding amounts to up to 250.000 euro per experiment. Within Fortissimo, two Open Calls for proposals have been scheduled. The first one closed in January 2014. Mark Parsons said that 65 proposals have been submitted and 22 proposals will be funded. The second call closed on June 18th, 2014.

Within the project an optimised financial and legal structure has been established to assist SMEs.

The goal is to improve company competitiveness through the use of HPC to deliver new or improved products and services. Modelling and simulation using HPC is being increasingly deployed to provide a comptetitive edge.

Mark Parsons said that Europe has world class HPC assets and expertise which contributes to the economic growth for Europe. According to an IDC report, "Each dollar invested in HPC returned on average 356 in revenue and 38 in profits and savings".

Fortissimo can be a major help for SMEs since many companies do not make use of HPC because there is a large hurdle to overcome. The initial costs are high for modelling, software, and skills, Mark Parsons explained. Fortissimo is designed to help companies overcome that hurdle and become regular users of HPC. The project is based on an existing model in best practice for working with SMEs.

Mark Parsons showed the Fortissimo Marketplace, a Fortissimo Cloud of HPC resources bringing all the required components together.

The first set of 21 experiments includes Pipistrel, dealing with aerodynamics of light aircraft, Mark Parsons added as an example. The business motivation for Pipistrel is to improve fidelity of aerodynamic simulations in Slovenia. Other examples are 3D-printing and seismic processing.

An example of the current experiments is experiment 6 that is reducing energy and emissions using Cloud HPC for urban planning. The SME involved in this experiment is Integrated Environmental Solutions Ltd. This company is using HPC to move from modelling individual buildings to urban scale, Mark Parsons showed.

The Open Calls objective is to create competitive calls for Application Experiments for the Fortissimo project. The target is the expansion of application experiments for engineering and manufacturing simulation services.

Fortissimo is demonstrating a significant demand for HPC by SMEs across Europe, Mark Parsons explained. It can however only meet a small fraction of this demand. Direct and immediate economic benefits result so the EC should consider how to fund more of these activities.

Mark Parsons is convinced that to compete globally we have to increase such support for EU companies in the area of modelling and simulation applications. The access to many commercial codes is complex for SMEs. A pay per use model is a welcome change in the market but this hides the continuing lack of innovation.

Where are the new applications and collaborations, Mark Parsons asked. The Cloud of HPC resources that Fortissimo represents is not the most important element. Solving SMEs' business challenges however is the core goal of the project. People and skills are the key factor and not the access to technology as such, concluded Mark Parsons.

Leslie Versweyveld