In June, both the European Economic and Social Committee and the Council of the European Union endorsed the the Commission’s proposal to establish the European High-Performance Computing (HPC) Joint Undertaking.
European Economic and Social Committee
The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) – the European advisory body representing workers' and employers' organisations and other interest groups – has adopted an opinion supporting the initiative.
Overall, the EESC endorses the initiative that “brings clear EU added value with a key technology which will help to tackle the most challenging issues of our modern society and will ultimately be beneficial for our well-being, competitiveness and jobs”. Interestingly, the opinion acknowledges that HPC “is now becoming crucial for ensuring personalised medicine, developing nanotechnologies and enabling the development and deployment of renewable energies”.
The EESC considers that, although the proposed €1 billion investment in HPC is significant, this will not be enough to compete with the USA and China. The Committee argues that “a substantial increase in the investments (in EU Member States) combined with a strong European research and innovation programme will be necessary to maintain a world class level in HPC applications”. In this regard, the opinion includes a recommendation to ensure that the Multiannual Financial Framework for the 2021-2027 period – that sets the limits for the annual general budgets of the EU – will be in line with the global competitors’ efforts in relation to HPC investments.
The EESC only has an advisory function. It informs the EU institutions responsible for EU decision-making of the opinions of the representatives of economic and social activity. Although the Committee’s opinions are not legally binding, they are taken into account in the decision-making process.
Council of the European Union
Similarly, on 26 June, the Council – which gathers the Ministries of the Member States – endorsed the Commission’s proposal.
In the past months, HPC has gained a lot of traction at EU level. This is mainly due to the fact that none of the EU supercomputers are currently in the global top 10 and the existing ones depend on non-European technology. Despite investments both at national and EU level, compared to its competitors from USA, China or Japan, Europe is clearly underinvesting in HPC with a funding gap of €500-750 million per year. At the moment, EU industry provides about 5% of HPC resources worldwide, but uses one third of them.
The European Parliament will vote on the Commission’s proposal in July, before the proposal is formally adopted by the Council. The Joint Undertaking is then expected to start operating in 2019 and to remain operational until the end of 2026.