FAQ

What is high-performance computing?

High-performance computing (HPC) refers to systems with extremely high computational capabilities. They involve hundreds of thousands of processors working in parallel to analyse billions of pieces of data in real-time. Today’s most powerful systems can perform calculations thousands of times faster than a normal desktop computer. The European Union has recognised high performance computing as a key component of the digital single market strategy.

What is the main usage of HPC?

High-performance computer simulations provide important insights to predict the behaviour of processes and products in many areas of science and engineering. It provides important tools, e.g. to the automotive industry, aerospace, biotechnology, environmental science science including climate research, medical technology, intelligent manufacturing, engineering among many others. The fastest computers in the world today are already incredibly powerful. Nevertheless, many scientific and industrial challenges demand still more computing power, for instance bioscience, engineering or material design.

Why do we need HPC?

Over the last decades, the availability and usability of HPC systems has become one of the determining factors for the progress of science and a strategic resource for Europe’s future. The accuracy of the analysis, the quality of the results and the potential of national and international collaborations in science and industry are more and more depending on the available computing infrastructure. Mastering advanced computing technologies from hardware to software has become essential for innovation, growth and jobs.

What is the European HPC strategy?

Over the last decades, the availability and usability of HPC systems has become one of the determining factors for the progress of science and a strategic resource for Europe’s future. The accuracy of the analysis, the quality of the results and the potential of national and international collaborations in both science and industry are more and more depending on the available computing infrastructure. Mastering advanced computing technologies from hardware to software has become essential for innovation, growth and jobs.

For the European Commission, HPC needs an EU-level policy to optimise national and European investments, addressing the entire HPC ecosystem. Therefore, its HPC Strategy was adopted in 2012 and implemented in the biggest EU Research and Innovation programme Horizon 2020.

Based on contractual Public-Private Partnership on HPC (cPPP on HPC), a strong cooperation with the HPC stakeholders is set up and developed an ambitious Research & Inovation funding strategy, addressing the following aspects:

  • HPC facilities via the Partnership for Advanced Computing in Europe (PRACE), established since October 2012
  • HPC technologies via the Future and Emerging Technologies (FET) programme, represented by the the European Technology Platform for HPC (ETP4HPC)
  • and HPC applications via the establishment of Centres of Excellence (CoEs); the CoEs are funded via the e-infrastructures programme which aims to address the needs of European researchers for digital services in terms of networking, computing and data management.

These three pillars building the European HPC Ecosystem.

Source: etp4hpc.eu
What is a European HPC Center of Excellence?

Following the recent call under the European Research Infrastructures, the European Commission selected ten European Centres of Excellence (CoEs) for high-performance computing. The CoEs are promoting the use of upcoming exascale and extreme performance computing capabilities, prepare the existing parallel codes for this next generation of supercomputers and provide e.g. consulting and training. The CoEs cover different areas, from engineering and renewable energy to Big Data science and bio-molecular research.

The ten CoEs selected under the recent call are: BioExcelChEESECompBioMedEoCoEESiWACEEXCELLERATFocusCoEHiDALGO, MaX and POP2

E-CAM is another European CoE that is still ongoing under the previous call from 2015.

What is the goal of Focus CoE?

Focus CoE is contributing to the success of the European HPC ecosystem and the EuroHPC Initiative by supporting the CoEs to more effectively fulfil their role within the ecosystem and initiative:  ensuring that extreme scale applications result in tangible benefits for addressing scientific, industrial or societal challenges. 

Focus CoE will do this by creating an effective platform for the CoEs to coordinate strategic directions and collaboration. It addresses possible fragmentation of activities across the CoEs and coordinates interactions with the overall HPC ecosystem. It provides support services for the CoEs in relation to both industrial outreach and promotion of their services and competences by acting as a focal point for users to discover those services.

How do EU citizens benefit?

The work of the CoEs in areas like environmental science, renewable energy, bioscience, medicine or Big Data and Global System science is influencing many aspects of our everyday life. 

Focus CoE ‘s goal is to promote the CoEs services and findings to ever more partners from science and industry and thereby reinforce the positive impact of high-performance computing in all of the areas covered by the CoEs. To achieve this, Focus CoE provides a number of services to the CoEs and supports them in terms of promoting their training offer, coordinate the industrial outreach and foster communication. 

As an example, EXCELLERAT is a CoE with a strong focus on HPC in engineering. One major use case of high-performance computing in engineering is the improvement of aerodynamics of cars and airplanes, which reduces fuel consumption and emissions. The improvements achieved through the simulations on HPC resources therefore not only add to the competitiveness of the industries, but also to the societal goal of better air quality.

Source: excellerat.eu

Another example is the use of high-performance computing in medicine by the CoE CompBioMed. The cutting edge of computational biomedicine harnesses computer simulations that are conducted on massively powerful supercomputers. It allows larger and more complex biological systems to be simulated, yielding better, more accurate, and more meaningful output. Find out more in this stunning video:

In urgent computing, scientists can use supercomputers to model complex phenomena in order to save lives. The ChEESE CoE is harnessing exascale computing capabilities to prepare our society against natural catastrophes such as earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions. Leading European HPC centers, academia, hardware developers, as well as SMEs, industry and public governance bodies such as civil protection are working together to prepare European flagship codes for upcoming pre-Exascale and Exascale supercomputing systems to tackle global challenges in the domain of solid earth:

Focus CoE supports the CoEs to promote their competences and services to industrial users, with a particular focus on SMEs. It creates awareness of the European CoE brand and offers access to the CoEs broad training offers. 

Furthermore, Focus CoE provides an analysis of user-sectors and market requirements, helping the CoEs thus to better target their offering.

What is Exascale computing?

Today’s most powerful computer systems are able to perform more than 1015 operations per second (“petascale”). In a few years, they are expected to reach 1018 operations per second (“exascale”). Exascale computing systems are capable of at least one exaFLOPS, or a billion billion calculations per second.