Europe will pour billions of euros to stay competitive in supercomputers

While Brussels has proposed this fall to invest 8 billion euros for supercomputers, the European Parliament suggests also mobilizing 2.2 billion euros in high performance computing.

While the race for computing power has become more and more head-to-head between China and the United States (of the 500 best-performing supercomputers in the world, 226 are Chinese and 114 are American, or more than two). third), Europe is trying not to be left behind. But to stay in the high performance computing race, it will have to spend billions of euros.

This is what is at stake in a first agreement concluded between the European Parliament and the Council on 14 December. As part of the “program for a digital Europe”, which should mark out the financing of several areas between 2021 and 2027, the two parties propose to release 2.2 billion euros to increase European capacities in the supercomputer sector.

The European Parliament is proposing 2.2 billion euros for high performance computing. // Source: European Parliament

In addition to high performance computing, the program envisaged by parliamentarians and EU member states includes a budget of 2 billion euros for projects in artificial intelligence and 1.6 billion euros in cybersecurity. The next step in this plan will be the ITRE (Industry, Research and Energy) Committee of the European Parliament, which has to say whether it approves it or not.

For the European Parliament, this effort will serve as an accelerator to deploy new very fast machines and “” high performance computing in the areas of public health (health, environment, safety and industry), including on the side of small and medium-sized companies, which do not have the means to equip themselves with this type of material.

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The European recovery plan mobilized

The European Commission also sees high performance computing as a very strategic issue. In mid-September, it announced its intention to mobilize 8 billion euros from its stimulus package to finance the construction of next-generation European supercomputers – that is, machines capable of running at least one second every second. billion billion calculations.

This class of supercomputer is called “exaflopic”. The rank below is said to be “petaflopic”, with a million billion calculations per second. In between, there is the pre-exaflopic rank, with 100 million billion calculations per second. They are very rare. There are four in the world: one Japanese, Fugaku, two American, Summit and Sierra, and one Chinese, Sunway TaihuLight.

Europe will pour billions of euros to stay competitive in supercomputers

The American Summit supercomputer. // Source: OLCF

These 8 billion euros proposed by Brussels cover the period 2021-2033 and will not be limited to the manufacture, maintenance and updating of machines. They must also irrigate other similar issues, including the design of software and optimized algorithms, expanded access to industry and scientists, the provision of services in the cloud and research in quantum computing.

The European financial mobilization on high performance computing reflects the awareness in the Union of the strategic issue that is the field of supercomputers. Indeed, by equipping itself with its own work platforms, Brussels avoids having to resort to foreign solutions to process industrial, scientific, health or economic data.

The previous European Commission also supported the establishment of the EuroHPC initiative, a public-private partnership on strategy in supercomputers. In June 2019, the list of cities that will host eight future European supercomputers was announced and three of them are intended to pass the exaflopic course, a priori from 2023.

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