European Union invests $1.2bn in supercomputers to compete with China, US

Marko Ahtisaari  Flickr

Marko Ahtisaari Flickr

The EuroHPC funding structure will be used for deployments of pre-exascale systems, as well as for development of technology that will go into subsequent European-built exascale systems.

While the Top500 tables are always great to be at the head of, more powerful supercomputers are a massive boon to people around the world due to the advantages that they bring.

In a European Commission press release on Thursday, the Commission's Vice President for the Digital Single Market Andrus Ansip said the EU is "lagging behind" when it comes to supercomputers.

To buy and develop them, Europe will spend $486 million itself, with the balance of the $1.2 billion coming from member states. That poses a risk that sensitive personal information, trade secrets and other data could leak or be stolen.

"We want to give European researchers and companies world-leading supercomputer capacity by 2020", Ansip said in a statement.

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The four computers that result from this first phase will be made available to businesses and research groups across Europe, said the Commission.

Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society added: "Supercomputers are already at the core of major advancements and innovations in many areas directly affecting the daily lives of European citizens".

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 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". HPC is also used for preventing and managing large-scale natural disasters, notably for forecasting the paths which hurricanes follow or for quake simulations.

China now has more high-performance supercomputers than the United States in global rankings.

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The EuroHPC infrastructure will provide European industry and in particular small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with a better access to supercomputers to develop innovative products.

When it comes to manufacturing, the European Union is also keen to increase productivity.

Around half the funding from the EuroHPC project will come from the Commission, including existing Horizon R&D funds, and the remainder from ongoing HPC work in member states, with the entire amount to be invested by 2020.

It predicts that with the use of a supercomputer, vehicle production cycles could be reduced "from 60 months to 24 months".

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