world's fastest supercomputer
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EU industry ministers have launched a $1b project to build the world’s fastest supercomputer by 2023 in an attempt to catch up with China, the US and Japan

A new organisation, EuroHPC, based in Luxembourg, will manage the project from early 2019. The group will be awarded €486 million from the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 research budget, with a similar amount from 25 member states.

The overall goal of the project is for Europe to acquire two ‘exascale’ supercomputers, capable of performing at least one billion billion mathematical calculations per second. There are currently 105 supercomputers in Europe, however, the top performing machines belong to China and the US.

This dominance has to be challenged, EU digital commissioner Mariya Gabriel said earlier this year. “The EU does not have one computer in the top ten list of supercomputers,” Gabriel said. “In 2012 we had four machines [in the top ten].”

Supercomputing hardware expertise in Europe is also lagging, with EU industry providing only 5% of high-performance computing components worldwide. Today’s swiftest computers can cost up to €250 million to design and assemble and several million euros more per year to run.

On top of the initial billion-euro investment, the Commission wants an additional €2.7 billion set aside in the 2021-2027 EU budget for post-exascale machines, some of which could be based on quantum computing technology.

Europe’s fastest computer is currently situated in Switzerland, but it is still 12 times slower than China’s Sunway TaihuLight, which performs at 93 quadrillion calculations per second. It uses Chinese-made microprocessors, rather than chips from Silicon Valley’s intel, which provides chips for 90% of all supercomputers in the world.

“The European HPC technology supply chain is still weak and the integration of European technologies into operational HPC machines remains insignificant,” the EU says.

Sergi Girona, operations director at the Barcelona Supercomputing Centre, said the key was to have member states “cooperating, rather than in competition together. If we can align our interests, then we can catch up with the others,” he said.

“China was significantly behind the rest of the world a few years ago. This is about investment rather than capabilities,” Girona added.


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