Europe plans to spend €1 billion on supercomputers as it looks to keep pace with the US and China

  • None of the 10 fastest supercomputers in the world are currently located in Europe.
  • The European Commission wants to change this by investing €486 million (£432 million) in high performance computers. It hopes that member states will contribute an additional €500 million (£445 million).
  • Computer scientists in the UK are concerned the UK will miss out on the benefits of the new supercomputers as a result of Brexit.

Europe is planning to spend €1 billion (£890 million) on supercomputers that “bring benefits to society,” according to an announcement on the European Commission’s website.

The European Commission said on Friday that it intends to fund world class high performance computers (HPC) in Europe through the “EuroHPC” initiative so that European companies and scientists don’t have to process their data outside the EU.

“Supercomputers are the engine to power the digital economy,” said Andrus Ansip, European Commission Vice-President for the Digital Single Market in a statement.

“It is a tough race and today the EU is lagging behind: we do not have any supercomputers in the world’s top-ten. With the EuroHPC initiative we want to give European researchers and companies world-leading supercomputer capacity by 2020 – to develop technologies such as artificial intelligence and build the future’s everyday applications in areas like health, security or engineering.”

The Commission is willing to invest €486 million (£432 million) in high performance computers and it wants member states to contribute an additional €500 million (£445 million) plus by 2020. Companies are also being invited to make contributions.

Today, the two fastest supercomputers are in China. Most of the others in the top 10 are found in the US and Japan. The Commission hopes that the EuroHPC will result in Europe having two supercomputers that are among the top 10 in the world and capable of tens of millions of billions of calculations per second.

Computer scientists in Britain are concerned that they will miss out on the benefits that the supercomputers bring as a result of Brexit, Bloomberg reports. The UK is yet to formally join the initiative.

Simon McIntosh-Smith, a computer scientist at the University of Bristol, told Bloomberg: “Brexit has thrown a lot of uncertainty around the UK’s participation and it is really unfortunate and causing delay and confusion.”

Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, said in a statement: “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 personalised medicine, save energy and fight against climate change more efficiently.

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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