This study "SMART 2014/0021" analyses the progress of the European HPC Strategy toward ensuring European leadership in the supply and use of HPC systems and services by 2020, and provides recommendations for its implementation. The study results provide insights on the worldwide context of the HPC and its strategic role in social, scientific and economic innovation. The intertwining of HPC with a growing number of industrial applications and scientific domains makes HPC the engine to power the new global digital economy, and places HPC as one of the key contributors to the Digital Single Market (DSM) strategy.
The study findings will support the EC report to the European Parliament and Council on the implementation of the HPC strategy by the end of 2015.

  • The aggregate peak performance of supercomputers in Europe rose more than ten-fold in the last 4 years
  • €1 invested in HPC on average returns €867 in increased revenue/income & €69 in profits
  • Most European HPC stakeholders think that Europe's HPC capabilities got stronger in the past 2-3 years

In the massively connected digital economy, the exponential growth of data, networking and computing will continue to be a key driver of societal changes, scientific advances and productivity gains across the economy. While modern scientific discovery requires very high computing power and capability to deal with huge volumes of data, industries and SMEs are also increasingly relying on the power of supercomputers to invent innovative solutions, reduce cost and decrease time to market for products and services. HPC helps improving the scientific and industrial innovation capability and the competitiveness of industries and SMEs, allowing better services for the citizens and better decision making. These developments are in line with one of the Commission's priorities, the Digital Single Market (DSM) strategy, HPC being is one of its key contributors next to Cloud services, Big Data and Internet of things (IoT).

Role of HPC for European science and industry competitiveness

The study found that overall in the past 5 years there's been a growing realization of the importance of HPC for the competitiveness of European science and industry. The same thing has been happening at the national level, including the value of collaborating with other countries. Europe has made impressive progress in areas that are crucial for the goals of the European HPC strategy, especially organizing the European HPC community to pursue HPC leadership on a unified basis, expanding the scientific and industrial access to and use of supercomputers, and launching initiatives to strengthen the European HPC supply chain.

At the very high end of the supercomputers segment, Europe has significantly narrowed the former wide gap with the most capable U.S., Chinese and Japanese supercomputers. In November 2010, 9 of the world's 50 most powerful supercomputers were located in Europe. In June 2015, Europe hosted 18 of the top 50, including the PRACE tier-0 supercomputers. The aggregate peak performance of the Europe-based supercomputers rose more than ten-fold during this period, from 4.3 petaflops in November 2010 to 51.9 petaflops in June 2015. Clearly, Europe's standing as a provider of high-end supercomputing resources advanced in both absolute and relative (worldwide) terms during the period 2010-2015, but greater outreach is needed to industry, especially SMEs.

European HPC ecosystem

The study analyses the European HPC ecosystem, including market and investment data. Europe achieved healthy HPC funding growth in 2010, 2011 and 2012, but declined heavily in 2013 and 2014. On average, however, the net funding increase over the last five-year period was extremely good for pursuing HPC leadership. Significant investments will be needed for Europe to stay in the HPC race: the study's estimations of public and private investments for Europe to achieve leadership by 2020 are in the order of additional €500 million to €750 million per year, including the €1 billion-plus in funding needed to acquire pre-exascale and exascale supercomputers in globally competitive time frames. Member States and the EC will need to find a way to coordinate and pool these investments.

The study also provides evidence for the returns-on-investment (ROI) on HPC in Europe. European HPC investments are producing excellent ROI for science and industry. The study captured detailed ROI information on 143 European HPC projects. For projects that generated financial returns, each euro invested in HPC on average returned €867 in increased revenue/income and €69 in profits.

The European HPC strategy and its actors

Overall, the main actors—the European Commission, PRACE and ETP4HPC, have done important efforts for coordinating to advance the European HPC strategy (as defined in the Communication "High Performance Computing (HPC): Europe's place in a global race"), but more needs to be done.  The study analyses the degree of achievement of the European HPC strategy objectives, and from a technical standpoint, Europe's HPC community, building on existing and planned EU-wide HPC development initiatives, is well positioned to exploit a strong base of indigenous and foreign technologies across its commercial, academic and government sectors to assemble exascale HPC capability that could, in some critical application sectors, achieve world-class stature or even global leadership. There are particular strengths in applications, low-power computing, systems and integration that can be leveraged to engage successfully in this global race, getting the EU back on the world scene as a leading-edge technology supplier. A clearer path is needed, however, for driving innovation into supercomputer procurements.

The study also provides recommendations on the Action Plan for the HPC strategy, addressing of additional investment needed for HPC leadership, improving the strategy's communication, developing the HPC ecosystem and governance, further support for industry adoption of HPC –in particular SMEs, and improving Skills and Talent in HPC. The study is accompanied with HPC market data.

The results of this study will be used to report to the Council and Parliament on progress made in the implementation of the HPC strategy Action Plan planned for 2015.

The study was carried out for the European Commission by IDC from October 2014 to June 2015.

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