Council agreement secures EU financing of high performance computing

(Source: Council of the EU)

The Council today agreed on a general approach on the proposed regulation establishing the European High Performance Computing joint undertaking.

Today’s agreement paves the way for the development within Europe of the next generation of digital technologies. Supercomputers and quantum computing are the engines that power the data economy, harnessing technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), data analytics and cybersecurity to deliver applications that will lead to breakthroughs in key areas such as health and climate change. Our transition to a digital economy depends on them.

Manuel Heitor, Portuguese Minister for Science and Technology and Higher Education

The draft regulation, which replaces the existing one, has been aligned to the EU’s multiannual financial framework for the years 2021-2027, thus making it possible for the joint undertaking to use funding from EU programmes, such as Horizon Europe, Digital Europe and the Connecting Europe Facility. In addition, it takes into account recent technological developments, such as quantum computing.

The main changes to the Commission proposal are the following :

  • the alignment to the Horizon Europe Regulation’s matching principle is made more explicit and reinforced, in order to provide legal clarity and predictability on the respective financial contributions of the EU and of the Participating States; 
  • in compliance with the Horizon Europe regulation, a coordination mechanism for the central management of financial contributions is established,  leading to further simplification for beneficiaries: Participating States will strive to synchronise the payment schedule, reporting and audit in order to ease the administrative burden on beneficiaries. In addition, Participating States will have the option of entrusting the payment of their financial contribution to the Joint Undertaking, so that their beneficiaries would have a single grant agreement. Moreover, Participating States will keep a veto right over the use of their national contributions for beneficiaries established in their countries;
  • the Council text provides for the possibility to finance the upgrade of existing supercomputers owned or co-owned by the Joint Undertaking. Increasing the life-time of these supercomputers represents a cost-effective way to ensure a good return on investment. The EU contribution to such upgrades is capped, in order to ensure the broadest possible geographical distribution of supercomputers;
  • on the governance, the Council text clarifies the setup and responsibilities of the various bodies and establishes that the administrative costs are paid only by the EU.

Background

The European High Performance Computing joint undertaking (EuroHPC) aims at developing, deploying, extending and maintaining in the EU a world leading federated, secure and hyper-connected supercomputing, quantum computing, service and data infrastructure ecosystem.  The draft regulation allows for the continuation of the activities of the existing EuroHPC Joint Undertaking, established in October 2018 pooling resources from the EU, 32 countries, and two Private Members: the European Technology Platform for HPC and the Big Data Value Associations.

High Performance Computing (HPC) refers to computing systems (“supercomputers”) with extremely high computational power that are able to solve hugely complex and demanding problems. It enables key technologies like artificial intelligence, data analytics and cybersecurity, to exploit the enormous potential of the big data economy.

The Commission proposal was tabled in September 2020.

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