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EU invests in 'supercomputers'

Planned investment in new European 'supercomputers' will help support advancements in personalised medicine, combat the effects of climate change and support the digitisation of industry, the European Commission has said.12 Jan 2018

The Commission has announced that it will invest approximately €486 million of central EU funds into a new European high-performance computing (HPC) by 2020, with that funding to be matched by a "similar amount" from individual EU member states and added to by further contributions from the private sector.

Under the plans, a new EuroHPC Joint Undertaking will be established to lead on the acquisition and operation of four new supercomputing machines – two of which will be "world-class pre-exascale" machines, and two which will be "mid-range".

The Commission said that the EuroHPC Joint Undertaking would also be responsible for "providing and managing access to these supercomputers to a wide range of public and private users starting from 2020".

The entity will also undertake a "research and innovation programme on HPC" as part of its activities. This will involve it supporting "the development of European supercomputing technology", including the software that could run on HPC machines, the Commission said.

"Today, European scientists and industry increasingly process their data outside the EU because their needs are not matched by the computation time or computer performance available in the EU," the Commission said. "This lack of independence threatens privacy, data protection, commercial trade secrets, and ownership of data in particular for sensitive applications."

According to the Commission, the EuroHPC Joint Undertaking is expected to operate between 2019 and 2026 and will be owned and operated by the countries that sign the EuroHPC declaration. To-date, 13 countries have done so –  Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain and Switzerland.

Andrus Ansip, the EU commissioner responsible for the digital single market, said: "Supercomputers are the engine to power the digital economy. It is a tough race and today the EU is lagging behind: we do not have any supercomputers in the world's top-ten. With the EuroHPC initiative we want to give European researchers and companies world-leading supercomputer capacity by 2020 – to develop technologies such as artificial intelligence and build the future's everyday applications in areas like health, security or engineering."