European Commission serious about supercomputing
21 Feb 2012 Brussels -
The European Commission (EC) has published a communication "High-Performance Computing: Europe's place in a Global Race" in which it proposes to the European Union, the industry and the Member States to double the efforts in HPC from 630 million euro in 2009 to 1.2 billion euro per year. This is needed not only to get HPC on the same level as in the USA and Japan, but also to support a European HPC industry. To this end, Europe's strength in applications should be used, according to the EC, as a starting point. There is almost no HPC industry in Europe. The EC sees protective measures in for instance the US as one reason, while foreign multinationals are free to transfer results from European funded projects - Intellectual Property Rights (IP) - to outside Europe. The EC wants to level the international playing field by raising "inequalities in HPC market access in its ICT Dialogues and trade negotiations with the countries concerned". Or it "may apply additional exploitation obligations" to new EC funded research projects. So the EC wants the US to open the US HPC market to European companies, or it will no longer allow US multinationals to transfer EC funded HPC knowledge to the US.
PRACE is seen by the EC as the main vehicle for creating a European HPC infrastructure. It enourages member states and companies to support PRACE and make use of its infrastructure.
Following the world trend in exascale supercomputing, the EC proposes to establish hardware and software co-design centres. In addition centres of excellence should be established for the application of HPC in scientific or industrial domains that are most important for Europe, the EC says.
The EC sees a big number of challenges ahead that need to be overcome to make Europe competitive in HPC on a world scale. There is still a fragmentation of public HPC services across Europe. Each country, or region has its own small - on a global scale - HPC centre. Overall, the European Union is spending less on HPC than for instance the USA that has double the budget.
It is very difficult for European HPC vendors to sell in the US and other foreign markets because of national regulations in these countries.
The EC also sees the limited interaction between industry and acadmia with regard to the exploitation of supercomputers as problematic. Also the lack of a skilled HPC work force is a problem. Or, as the EC says: "Scientists that look after the computational tools and application codes often do not have an attractive career path."
The Communication outlines what needs to be done according to the EC. It is an Action Plan with four objectives:
- Provide a world-class European HPC infrastructure, benefiting a broad range of academic and industry users, and especially SMEs, including a workforce well trained in HPC;
- Ensure independent access to HPC technologies, systems and services for the European Union;
- Establish a pan-European HPC governance scheme to pool enlarged resources and increase efficiency including the strategic use of joint and pre-commercial procurement;
- Ensure the EU's position as a global actor.
It will now start working on the implementation of this Action Plan with the Member States. A report about the results is planned for 2015.