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European Commission explains why Joint Undertaking is well suited as legal instrument to help create EuroHPC ecosystem

During the annual SURFsara Super D Event on December 12, 2017 in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, we had a conversation with Thomas Skordas, who is responsible for the EuroHPC strategic initiative. Thomas Skordas is Director of "Digital Excellence and Science Infrastructures" of the European Commission's Directorate in DG Connect. This Directorate is promoting and funding research infrastructures and excellent research in Europe. Part of the research infrastructures that the European Commission (EC) is funding, is directly related to creating a large-scale high-performance computing (HPC) infrastructure for Europe for the benefit of European scientists, industry, and the public sector. The EuroHPC initiative has been proposed by the EC in order to create an excellent HPC infrastructure that European scientists and industry need in the area of high-performance computing and enabling science and user applications.

EuroHPC is not just another European Union programme. It is a programme that has the ambition to become a joint initiative between Member States, associated countries, and the European Union. It started with the Declaration signed in Rome in March 2017 by seven countries, among which are the Netherlands. Now, there are 13 (ed. meanwhile 14) supporting countries and the EC hopes that soon there will be many others joining this initiative at the European level.

EuroHPC has two major ambitions. The first is to be able to equip the European scientists, industry and the public sector, with leading-edge HPC infrastructure, so they can run their ambitious applications, and enable scientific discoveries and innovation. The second and most important goal is to create a whole European ecosystem around those machines which somehow includes not only the infrastructure development part but also the developments in terms of technology, applications and skills. It is the whole ecosystem and this includes the possibility to develop and attract new engineers and new skills in HPC and the wide use of those machines.

New since March is that there now is a proposal adopted by the EC on 11 January 2018 for a Council Regulation establishing a legal entity to run EuroHPC in the form of a Joint Undertaking. We invited Thomas Skordas to tell a little bit more about this.

Thomas Skordas explained that this Joint Undertaking (JU) is one of the instruments that exist in the European Treaty which basically says that the European Union and the Member States can join forces, pull resources together, and coordinate activities, with the aim to realise an ambitious research and innovation initiative of big added value for Europe. The EuroHPC JU exactly wants to do that. The JU would have as purpose to address the two ambitions Thomas Skordas mentioned before. It is by pulling together financial resources from the Member States and from the European Union that the Joint Undertaking will be functioning. It will be a separate legal entity but its governing board will have representatives from the EC and from those Member States that will support the Joint Undertaking. There will also be private members which basically are the scientific communities and the user and supplier industry.

The ambition of the Joint Undertaking is to make it a long-term investment. We learned from Skordas' presentation earlier at the Super D Event that the time scale is reaching until 2030.

Thomas Skordas confirmed this. If it is defined right now, it is to give it a lifetime of many years to be able to put Europe at the leading seat of HPC and enabling applications, the ecosystem, and the infrastructure. Nevertheless, the EC has to start with what already exists, that is with the Horizon 2020 budget that there is right now, since the EC is still in this multiannual financial framework which ends in 2020. This is why the EC starts with funds from 2019-2020 and if the developments go well, one should be able to continue the EuroHPC initiative in the next multiannual financial framework, as of 2021.

So, the EC starts in 2019-2020 with the ambition to procure leading-edge machines for Europe and develop the next generation of high-performance computing technologies, the exascale technologies. If the Joint Undertaking receives funding in the next phase, starting from 2021, it will be able to further its ambitions, to develop European technology-based full exascale systems, procure and deploy them in Europe, and develop the ecosystem around those exascale systems and beyond.

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