HPC for Industry: an overview of the European landscape

Industry holds a vital position within the economic framework of the European Union, contributing significantly to its prosperity and progress. This sector is responsible for a remarkable 83% of EU exports and sustains over 36 million jobs [1]. According to the Eurostat data [2], there were 30.1 million enterprises in Europe in 2021, employing 155 million people. Of that total, 99.8% (29.9 million) were micro, small and medium enterprises (SMEs), leaving only 0.2% large enterprises that employ more than 249 people. In 2021, the industry sector accounted for only 8% (2.4 million) of the total number of enterprises but generated more than one-third of its turnover (€10.4 trillion, 34%) and employed around one-fifth of its business labour force (32.8 million people, 21%).

The European Commission has been supporting SMEs across all industrial ecosystems, offering more than 200 billion euro of dedicated EU funding to SMEs through 2027 [3], boosting their innovation and digitalization potential. Furthermore, by implementing the Digital Decade policy programme for Europe’s digital transformation by 2030, the European Commission set out its long-term strategy for the digital transformation of the European Union to “empower businesses and people in a human-centered, sustainable, and more prosperous digital future [4].”

HPC plays a pivotal role in enhancing the competitiveness of SMEs across sectors. By providing SMEs with the computational power needed for complex simulations, data analytics, and modelling, HPC accelerates product development, optimises processes, and fosters innovation. It transforms SMEs into formidable players in their respective domains. In fact, digital transformation of SMEs is a key factor driving demand for HPC-based cloud services. The HPC cloud service models segment offered to industry, as well as public institutions, is divided into software as a service (SaaS), Infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and platform as a service (PaaS). Hyperion Research is estimating that revenue from HPC Cloud services will exceed $11 billion by 2026.

Furthermore, it’s not only demand for HPC (Cloud) services that’s on the rise but also the use of AI in all sectors. Hyperion Research is forecasting AI to grow 22.7% (CAGR) over the next five years [5].

That said, industry is requesting increasingly high volumes of computational power. The next class of HPC systems, Exascale supercomputers, are ushering in a new era of computing power that render complex simulations and data-intensive tasks accessible to SMEs. Many sectors including aerospace, energy, and manufacturing are innovating through the application of complex engineering, mechanics, fluid dynamics, physics, and materials science only achievable with exascale computation. This technological leap offers unprecedented opportunities for product development and innovation, empowering SMEs in ways never before possible.

Despite all its advantages, SMEs encounter several challenges in their quest to access HPC resources. These include a lack of awareness of use of HPC, budget constraints, data security risks, and limited access to HPC infrastructure, as well as insufficient awareness of how to access HPC. Overcoming these hurdles is imperative for SMEs to harness the full potential of HPC.

The European High-Performance Computing Joint Undertaking, commonly referred to as the EuroHPC JU [6], is a pioneering initiative established in 2018 by the European Union to accelerate the development and deployment of HPC technologies across Europe. The EuroHPC JU fosters collaboration and innovation in the field of HPC, striving to bolster Europe’s capabilities and competitiveness. By pooling resources and expertise, the EuroHPC JU endeavours to advance cutting-edge supercomputing infrastructure, research, and applications for a wide range of scientific, industrial, and societal challenges. This initiative is a testament to the EU’s commitment to shaping the future of HPC and its manifold applications in Europe, making Europe self-sufficient and independent from other HPC global players such as the USA and China.

The EuroHPC JU serves as a catalyst for industry by providing access to supercomputers, fostering research and innovation collaborations, and offering essential funding opportunities. Activities are covered by a budget of around EUR 7 billion for the period 2021-2027. Most of the budget is contributed by the EU long-term budget as well as EUR 3 billion from the Digital European Programme, Horizon Europe, and Connecting Europe Facility-2.  

The EuroHPC JU ensures that European industries, including small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), have access to state-of-the-art supercomputing resources. To date, the EuroHPC JU has procured eight state-of-the-art supercomputers:
–    A total of three pre-exascale systems, including LUMI (Finland) and Leonardo (Italy), making them 3rd and 4th rank on the Top500 List of the most powerful supercomputers in the world (as of June 2023) [7], as well as Marenostrum 5 (Spain);
–    Five petascale systems Vega (Slovenia), Meluxina (Luxembourg), Karolina (Czech Republic), Discoverer (Bulgaria), Deucalion (Portugal).
The first exascle system in Europe will be Jupiter, and is expected to be installed at the Jülich Supercomputing Center in Germany this year.

Furthermore, the EuroHPC JU financial support can be instrumental in driving innovation and competitiveness in European industry. It offers opportunities for companies to secure grants and resources to pursue HPC-driven research and development. By funding R&D projects, the EuroHPC JU fosters collaboration between industry and research organisations. It facilitates partnerships that can engage in cutting-edge research and innovation projects. These projects can lead to breakthroughs in various sectors, including manufacturing, healthcare, climate modelling, and more.

When talking about funding and cascading programmes for industry as well as accessing HPC infrastructure, initiatives such as the National Competence Centres (NCCs) could approach industry, especially SMEs, to help them on their path towards Industry 4.0 and 5.0. 33 NCCs were established within the EuroCC project [8], which ran from 2020 until 2022, to become a central point of contact for HPC in respective European countries. NCCs provide training, resources, and support, enabling SMEs to bridge the digitalisation gap and embrace HPC technologies. The NCCs have proved to be an efficient contributor to fostering digitalisation and supercomputing not only in industry but also in public institutions and academia, thus their operation continues through the second phase of the EuroCC (now called EuroCC 2) project.

The NCCs are raising awareness of HPC uptake and putting a huge effort into promoting the use of HPC with industrial end-users, especially through promoting use cases and success stories, which showcase the implementation of HPC for business. Moreover, NCCs help SMEs to apply for funding options and R&D projects, which provide training, resources, and support, empowering SMEs on their journey towards digitalisation. One of these kinds of funding projects is Fortissimo [9] (of which FF4EuroHPC is the third Fortissimo project [10]). FF4EuroHPC and the Fortissimo projects facilitate access to HPC for SMEs and offer cascading funding through open calls. By encouraging SMEs to build consortia together with HPC and domain experts, Independent Software Vendors and NCCs, they have been running real-case experiments showing how experiment consortia addressed the business challenge, what technologies were used (HPC, AI, ML, HPDA), what solutions were developed, and most importantly, what business benefits were gained by everyone involved. The decade-long Fortissimo project series has brought significant benefits not only to SMEs but also to the whole HPC-value chain in the European ecosystem, showing what is possible to achieve with HPC. Through three Fortissimo projects, more than 130 success stories have been created so far, involving more than 300 entities around Europe.

To continue the successful support of the competitiveness and innovation potential of SMEs, a new call for project proposals was announced in September 2023, worth EUR 30 million [11]. Not only Fortissimo projects but also several other EU R&D projects which help to boost European industry and competitiveness were funded, such as:
–  Inno4scale [12]; funding smaller projects that demonstrate original proof-of-concept with high impact for exascale-supported applications in industry and academia;
–  eFlows4HPC [13]; developing innovative adaptive workflows and an additional set of services to enable the integration of HPC simulation and modelling with big data analytics and machine learning in scientific and industrial applications;
– Optima [14]; an SME-driven project aiming to port and optimize several industrial applications as well as a set of open-source libraries for FPGA.

Beyond the afore mentioned NCCs, Centres of Excellence (CoEs) [15] are important players in the European ecosystem addressing skills gaps in computational science in targeted domains through specialised training for increased adoption of advanced HPC in industry and academia. CoEs promote the use of upcoming exascale and extreme performance computing capabilities and scale up existing parallel codes towards exascale scaling performance in various sectors.

To date, the CoEs are addressing various sectors from manufacturing, energy, medicine, biochemistry to climate. EXCELLERAT CoE [16] has a strong focus on HPC in engineering, providing data management, data analytics, visualisation, simulation-driven design, and Co-design with high-performance computing (HPC) services for manufacturing, automotive, energy, aerospace, chemistry, biology, and climate sectors.

With governments and organisations investing in HPC infrastructure and research, and with the support of NCCs and CoEs, the future of the industry looks promising, as HPC continues to be a driving force behind innovation and efficiency.

This article was prepared under WP6 and is part of the D6.1 Market Assessment. Authors: Tina Črnigoj Marc, Andrej Košiček, Arctur d.o.o.



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