In today’s world, larger and larger amounts of data are constantly being generated, from 33 zettabytes globally in 2018 to an expected 175 zettabytes in 2025 (1 zettabyte is equal to 1 trillion gigabytes). As a result, the nature of computing is changing, with an increasing number of data-intensive critical applications. HPC is key to processing and analysing this growing volume of data, and to making the most of it for the benefit of citizens, businesses, researchers and public administrations.
HPC can be used in a large number of application areas: from monitoring and mitigating the effects of climate change and producing safer and greener vehicles to increasing cybersecurity and advancing the frontiers of knowledge in nearly every scientific field. It is also starting to play a key role in medicine: HPC can be used in drug design, from testing drug candidate molecules to repositioning existing drugs for new diseases, but also helps to understand the origins and evolution of epidemics and diseases. Supercomputers are actively involved in the quest for treatments for COVID-19. Moreover, HPC has proved to be of great importance in developing new applications and products, with a direct impact on the digital supply chain, such as designing new materials, cars and aeroplanes, and bioengineering and manufacturing.
Today, world-class supercomputers are able to perform more than 1015, i.e. at least one million billion, operations per second (petascale performance), with a few top-of-the-range systems exceeding 1017, i.e. at least one hundred million billion, operations per second (pre-exascale performance). The next generation (exascale) will perform more than one billion billion (1018) operations per second, a computing power level comparable to aggregating the computing capabilities of the mobile phones of the EU’s entire population. The world’s first exascale supercomputer is expected to be operational in 2021.
HPC is one of the key digital domains where the EU's investment is due to significantly increase in the next Multiannual Financial Framework (2021-2027). Moreover, supercomputing will play a key role in Europe’s path towards recovery, as it has been identified a strategic investment priority.
The European High Performance Computing Joint Undertaking
In September 2018, the European Council adopted the Regulation (EU) 2018/1488 establishing the European High Performance Computing Joint Undertaking (EuroHPC JU).
The EuroHPC JU aims to pool resources from the EU and 32 participating countries to build in Europe a world-class supercomputing and data infrastructure, and to develop a competitive HPC ecosystem in relevant technologies and applications. Since its creation, the EuroHPC JU has substantially increased overall investments in HPC at European level, and has started to restore Europe’s position as a leading HPC power globally.
In autumn 2020, the European Commission proposed a new regulation to replace the current one and build on the initial achievements of the EuroHPC JU. It sets out an ambitious mission, and a new budget of €8 billion, for the period 2021-2033 in order to:
- further develop, deploy, extend and maintain in the EU a world-class supercomputing and data infrastructure, driven by key scientific, industrial and social applications;
- develop and deploy a quantum computing and quantum simulation infrastructure integrated with the HPC infrastructure to that would permit to substantially accelerate the computing capacity of some of the EuroHPC JU’s supercomputers;
- federate European supercomputing and quantum computing resources and make them accessible to a wide range of public and private users in the European Union, including for the European public data spaces, as presented in the 2020 European Data Strategy;
- provide secure cloud-based supercomputing services for a wide range of public and private users across the European Union;
- support the development of innovative supercomputing technologies and applications to underpin a world-class European HPC ecosystem, develop greener computing, and exploit the synergies of HPC with artificial intelligence, big data and cloud technologies;
- extend and widen the use of supercomputing to a wide range of scientific and industrial users, for instance by helping SMEs develop innovative business cases using supercomputers and providing them with training opportunities and the critical HPC skills they need via National HPC Competence Centres;
- deploy Centres of Excellence in HPC applications and industrialisation of HPC software, with novel algorithms, codes and tools optimised for future generations of supercomputers;
- put in place large-scale industrial pilot test-beds and platforms for HPC and data applications and services in key industrial sectors;
Achieving these goals will ensure Europe’s global competitiveness, boost its leadership and technological and data autonomy, and strengthen European innovation potential by generating a highly knowledgeable, world-leading scientific and industrial community.
More information on the applications of high performance computing and the European Commission’s HPC strategy can be found in the following documents: