European Union outlines supercomputer plan

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On Thursday, the European Commission announced its plans to invest Euro 486 million in building a world-class European supercomputers infrastructure.

"Supercomputers are the engine to power the digital economy". "We can not risk being dependent on third countries for these computers", she said.

To give you an idea of how far behind, China has the world's fastest supercomputer, the Sunway TaihuLight, with 93 petaflops (93 million billion floating point operations per second) of computing power.

13 countries have formally signed up to the initiative, launched in March a year ago, to develop computers that can perform at least a hundred quadrillion (that's a million billion) calculations per second.

The cash will be spent developing machines that carry out a billion billion calculations per second.

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.

Today, the two fastest supercomputers are in China.

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Today, Europe does not have any supercomputers in the world's top ten, but the European Union aims to change that by raising a lot of money to build some.

Other top ten machines are located in Japan, US and everywhere but Europe (other than Switzerland, which is not part of the EU but an "associated country.") The only large European player is Atos SE, which built the Bull Sequana shown above.

Brussels says it will help develop artificial intelligence and applications to improve health, security and engineering, plus help forecast hurricane routes and simulate earthquakes. "Brexit has thrown a lot of uncertainty around the UK's participation and it is really unfortunate and causing delay and confusion", University of Bristol's Simon McIntosh-Smith told Bloomberg.

The EU has said it'll contribute €486 million to the project, with the rest will coming from member states and other countries that sign up to the project.

The commission expects to have this system in place by 2022 and said the programme is "crucial for the EU's competitiveness and independence in the data economy".

"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 personalized medicine, save energy and fight against climate change more efficiently".

Supercomputers are generally measured through FLOPS, and the world's most powerful models can process hundreds of quatrillions of these. "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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