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


Andrus Ansip, European Commission vice-president for the Digital Single Market, said: 'Supercomputers are the engine to power the digital economy.

The EU's contribution in EuroHPC will be around €486 million under the current multiannual fnancial framework, matched by a similar amount from member states and associated countries.

The move has been marked as a step forward in the European ambitions to be competitive and independent in the global data economy, with the Gaggle of Red-tapers looking to bring work back into the continent.

Expertise built up in the first phase would help Europe go beyond petaflops for the second stage of its research project and aims, by 2023, to make a machine that can breach the exaflop barrier.

Although the €1 billion investment is only created to extend out to 2020, the EuroHPC Joint Undertaking is supposed to remain operational until the end of 2026, which presumably will require another round of investments. Of that amount, $589 million will come from the EU. "Before the new structure was put in place, the Commission was effectively limited to contributing 20 percent to HPC initiatives undertaken with member states", noted Steve Conway, Research Vice President, Hyperion Research. The second is that the Commission has identified a lack of HPC resources within European borders.

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There are of course quite a few supercomputers located around the world, but few are with the grasp of the Gagglers. The report recommended that Europe should align its exascale efforts with those of the other major players, while also increasing the EC's funding contribution.

The European Union plans to spend €1 billion (US$1.2bn) on supercomputing by 2020, with half the funds coming from member states and the other half from the European Commission. Looking at the top ten supercomputers, two are in China, one in Switzerland, three in Japan and four are in the US.

Mark Parsons of the University of Edinburgh said that it would make much more sense for the United Kingdom to work on supercomputer development with other countries and that a lot of the viability would depend on the country's political status post-Brexit.

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". "They can help us to develop personalized medicine, save energy and fight against climate change more efficiently".

European scientists and industry risk yielding secrets or sensitive information as they increasingly process data outside the EU to perform tasks in the absence of the best supercomputers, the commission said.