15 Feb 2012 Brussels - High Performance Computing (HPC) is critical for industries that rely on precision and speed, such as automotive and aviation, and the health sector. Access to rapid simulations carried out by ever-improving supercomputers can be the difference between life and death; between new jobs and profits or bankruptcy. Hospitals in Germany use HPC to avoid last-minute decisions during childbirth, while analysis of 3D brain imaging through HPC has allowed much earlier diagnosis of disease. HPC has enabled car makers to develop new vehicle platforms in 2 years rather than 5 years, saving the European car industry up to 40 billion euro. 97% of the industrial companies that employ HPC consider it indispensable for their ability to innovate, compete and survive.
For these reasons, the Commission has set out a plan for the EU to reverse its relative decline in HPC use and capabilities. Under this plan the EU will double its investment in HPC - from 630 million euro to 1.2 billion euro - and become home to computers that can perform 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 (i.e. 1018) operations per second ("exascale"), before 2020. Half of the investment would be for development and training and for new centres of excellence, creating thousands of jobs.
Neelie Kroes, European Commission Vice-President responsible for the Digital Agenda, stated: "High Performance Computing is a crucial enabler for European industry and for more jobs in Europe. It's investments like HPC that deliver innovations improving daily life. We've got to invest smartly in this field because we cannot afford to leave it to our competitors."
Specifically, the Commission's plan will substantially strengthen HPC in Europe by:
A supercomputer can cost more than 100 million euro to build and 20 million euro to maintain each year. The world's largest supercomputers are more powerful than 130 000 laptops. The world's largest supercomputers can take up to 1,000 m2 space. Moreover, the building hosting the world's fastest HPC system takes up 10,500 m2 plus another 2,100 m2 for necessary chillers.
Europe's most powerful supercomputers are the CURIE HPC system (nr. 9 in the Top 500 supercomputer ranking) in France and the HERMES HPC system (no. 13 in Top 500) in Germany.
Ensuring Europe maintains sufficient ICT infrastructures to support innovation is a priority of the Digital Agenda for Europe (see IP/10/581, MEMO/10/199 and MEMO/10/200). At a macro-economic level, returns on investment in HPC are very high - the companies and countries that invest the most in HPC lead in science and economic success. Advances in the area of HPC such as new computing technologies, software, energy efficiency, storage applications, etc. feed into the broader ICT industry and the consumer mass market, becoming available in households within five years of their introduction in HPC. Conversely, advanced computing technologies developed for the consumer domain (e.g. energy-efficient chips, graphic cards processors) are increasingly used in HPC.
Securing high-quality jobs and growth in Europe requires building on the achievements of PRACE to further increase co-ordination between the actors in terms of governance and acquisition of supercomputing capacity.