European Commission reveals its plan to invest Euro 486 million in supercomputers

Sunday, 14 Jan, 2018

The EU's contribution to the project, matched by a similar amount from Member States and associated countries, is mainly aimed at speeding up the digitalization of the economy and securing Europe's global competiveness in research and innovation.

Supercomputers are generally measured through FLOPS, and the world's most powerful models can process hundreds of quatrillions of these.

While presenting the Euro High Performance Computing (EuroHPC) initiative, Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, stressed that the project is a key initiative for the EU Digital Single Market. Various reasons have been cited for the creation of the supercomputer, including privacy, data protection, commercial trade secrets, and ownership of data, but it another instance of Europe trying to remove any dependence on other regions.

"We do not have any supercomputers in the world's top ten", he said.

"With the EuroHPC (European High-Performance Computing) initiative we want to give European researchers and companies world-leading supercomputer capacity by 2020 - to develop technologies such as artificial intelligence".

The initial €486 million to be contributed by the EC represents a significant increase over the amount that was previously being considered.

Upon its establishment in Luxembourg in the second half of 2018, the EuroHPC operational structure will also support a research and innovation programme to develop the technologies and machines (hardware), as well as the applications (software) that operate on these supercomputers, to process several billion calculations per second.

The EU Commission also noted that "high-performance computing is a critical tool for understanding and responding to major scientific and societal challenges, such as early detection and treatment of diseases or developing new therapies based on personalised and precision medicine".

Buying and developing supercomputing technology is insane expensive, with exascale machines expected to cost up to a half billion dollars. It also said it is beneficial for preventing and managing large-scale disasters, specifically noting the paths of hurricanes and quake simulations. More generally, the European Union now seems loathe to continue its second-tier status, especially given the rise of China as a major supercomputing power.

The European Commission has revealed it plans to purchase two "world-class" supercomputers and two mid-range systems by 2020. "Other Member States and associated countries are encouraged to sign the EuroHPC declaration", the release states.

The resulting systems will be shared by EuroHPC states, which now consist of France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Belgium, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Switzerland, Greece and Croatia. The US and Japan dominate most of the rest of the top 10.