European Union to spend €1 billion on supercomputing strategy

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"It is a tough race", said European Commission VP for the digital single market Andrus Ansip. "We can not risk being dependent on third countries for these computers", she said.

None of the 10 fastest supercomputers in the world are now located in Europe. The announcement of the European Commission (EC) put on the table the importance of the technological future, above all in topics such as computer science. The aim is to develop its own exascale machines (that can do a billion billion calculations per second) by 2022-23.

Today's initiative will pool investments to establish leading European supercomputers and big data infrastructure.

These computers will act as a stepping stone to progress towards the ultimate goal of a next-gen "exascale" system, which could perform at least a quintillion calculations each second - and yes, that's a billion billion.

European officials first detailed the initiative, named EuroHPC, in March 2017 but today is the first time that they've spoken about the project's funding details.

The European Commission, the EU executive, said it would contribute around 486 million euros ($580 million) for a "High Performance Computing (EuroHPC) infrastructure", that would then be matched by EU nations.

Formally, the United Kingdom is not part of the project, and some are fearing the country might be missing out on a great opportunity. And since HPC is increasing seen as a critical driver to economic performance and societal advancement, Europe has as much at stake in this regard as any other leading economy.

"Brexit has thrown a lot of uncertainty around the U.K.'s participation and it is really unfortunate and causing delay and confusion", Simon McIntosh-Smith, a professor specialising in high-performance computing at the University of Bristol, said.

The EU's contribution in EuroHPC will be around Euro 486 million under the current Multiannual Financial 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. "They can help us to develop personalised medicine, save energy and fight against climate change more efficiently".

Such sentiments are now common with European Union bureaucrats, as reflected by comments from Digital Economy and Society Commissioner Mariya Gabriel.

Gabriel added: "A better European supercomputing infrastructure holds great potential for job creation and is a key factor for the digitisation of industry and increasing the competitiveness of the European economy".

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