Documents considered by the Committee on 28 February 2018 Contents

2High Performance Computing

Committee’s assessment

Politically important

Committee’s decision

Not cleared from scrutiny; further information requested; drawn to the attention of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Select Committee

Document details

Proposal for a Council Regulation on establishing the European High Performance Computing Joint Undertaking

Legal base

Article 187 TFEU; EP consultation; QMV

Department

Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Document Number

(39423), 5282/18 + ADDs 1–6, COM (18) 8 final

Summary and Committee’s conclusions

2.1As part of the digitisation of industry pillar of its Digital Single Market Strategy, on 12 January 2018 the European Commission proposed a Council Regulation2 that will establish a public-private partnership to procure and deploy new High Performance Computing (HPC) infrastructure.

2.2The proposed infrastructure will facilitate data-driven research that requires exascale computing capabilities—machines capable of a billion-billion calculations per second, with pre-exascale machines operating at around 20–50% of this capability. Applications for this technology include the simulation of a complete next-generation airplane; climate modelling; linking genome to health; understanding the human brain; and in silico testing of cosmetics to reduce animal testing. The Commission argues that this infrastructure will also reduce Europe’s increasing reliance on infrastructure in other countries.

2.3The Commission’s proposal was previously trailed in the European Commission’s 2016 Communication on the “European Cloud Initiative”,3 in which the Commission called for the establishment of a European Data Infrastructure based on the development of a full European High Performance Computing ecosystem capable of developing new European technology.

2.4The Joint Undertaking (JU) will support the development of exascale performance systems by 2022–2023, and procure two HPC systems with pre-exascale performance in the meantime. The JU will oversee the deployment, interconnection and operation of these machines and manage access to them for a wide range of public and private users. It will also run a Research and Innovation Programme that will support the R&D required for building exascale machines by 2022–2023 and the first generation of European, low-power microprocessor technology. In 2019–2020 it will launch open calls for R&I proposals for funding HPC technology and application development activities.

2.5The Government indicates in its Explanatory Memorandum,4 submitted on 29 January 2018, that, although it is a leading participant in the working group developing the detailed planning and budget for the EuroHPC initiative, it has not yet formally signed-up to the project at this stage. The Minister (Sam Gyimah MP) indicates that decisions on future UK participation will be made as more detailed plans become available and in light of the UK Research Infrastructure Roadmap that is currently being developed by UK Research and Innovation. The Minister acknowledges that the UK’s right to participate in the JU post-withdrawal is subject to EU exit negotiations.

2.6So far thirteen countries have stated their intention to participate (France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Belgium, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Greece, Croatia and Switzerland). Membership is also open to those countries that are associated to EU Framework Programmes for research and innovation (e.g. Horizon 2020). The regulation allows for new members to join at a later date should they wish. It is envisaged that the JU will be funded by the current Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) budget to a value of around €486 million (approximately £431 million) and that this contribution will be matched by additional contributions from participating countries. The Minister states that the proposal has no direct financial implications for the UK.

2.7The European Commission’s proposal to finance the development of a homegrown exascale computing system will help to promote the uptake of digital technologies by European industry and to promote the future growth of the European Union’s digital economy. In this regard, the proposed European High Performance Computing Joint Undertaking (EuroHPC JU) has potential ramifications for the UK post-withdrawal, as the successful development of this capability—which is not, we note, a given—would potentially support data-driven innovation across a wide range of research-intensive sectors—sectors which are also integral to the UK’s recently published Industrial Strategy.5

2.8The question of how the Government intends to proceed in terms of High Performance Computing, both in relation to this proposal and more generally, is therefore a matter of some interest to the Committee. However, we note that the Government’s ability to participate in the EuroHPC JU is contingent on the future relationship with the EU, and that the Government will await the development of the UK Research Infrastructure Roadmap—in Spring 2019, by which time the JU is intended be in operation—before deciding how to proceed.

2.9We ask the Government to respond to the following questions:

2.10We retain this proposal under scrutiny and ask the Government to respond to our questions by 29 March 2017. We draw this report to the attention of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Select Committee.

Full details of the documents

Proposal for a Council Regulation on establishing the European High Performance Computing Joint Undertaking: (39423), 5282/18, COM (18) 8 final.

Background

Digital Single Market

2.11On 6 May 2015 the European Commission adopted a Digital Single Market Strategy,9 which identified a range of future initiatives intended to facilitate the growth of Europe’s digital economy. The third pillar of the Strategy, “Maximising the growth potential of the Digital Economy”, identified the need for investment in ICT infrastructures and technologies such as Cloud computing and Big Data, and research and innovation to boost industrial competitiveness, which would be taken forward in due course.

European Cloud Initiative

2.12On 19 April 2016 the European Commission published a “European Cloud Initiative” Communication, which identified necessary steps to build a competitive data and knowledge economy.10 The Communication stated that “there is surging demand in Europe for a world-class High Performance Computing (HPC) infrastructure to process data in science and engineering,” and identified a range of types of research that required exascale computing capabilities. The Communication noted that the USA, China, Japan, Russia and India were advancing swiftly in this area, but that Europe was falling behind other regions as it failed to invest in its HPC ecosystem. The Communication stated that:

2.13On this basis, the Commission proposed that it and participating Member States should develop and deploy a large scale European High Performance Computing, data and network infrastructure (or “European Data Infrastructure”), through a proposal that would be brought forward in due course.

The proposal11

2.14The European Commission proposes to establish, through a Council Regulation, a public-private partnership in the form of a Joint Undertaking (JU) to procure and deploy new High Performance Computing (HPC) infrastructure. This JU is designed to facilitate the necessary collaboration for Europe to deploy new HPC infrastructure and eliminate reliance on non-EU technologies.

2.15In an Explanatory Memorandum which provides the rationale for the Commission’s proposal, the Commission states that current European-HPC infrastructure does not meet the needs of scientists and industry, and researchers are increasingly reliant on non-EU technology for data processing. This risks the EU being deprived of strategic or technological know-how for innovation and competitiveness, and also carries risks regarding the protection of personal and sensitive data (e.g. commercial data or trade secrets). To mitigate this risk the EC is proposing to build its own supercomputer infrastructure with enough capacity for European users.

2.16The Commission notes that the EU and its Member States (MS) generally invest less in HPC technology compared to other leading nations such as the USA, China and Japan, and that the Union’s investments in HPC remain largely uncoordinated and result in low industrial take-up. Compared to these countries it suggests that the Union is underinvesting by approximately €500–750 million per year.

2.17The activities of the Joint Undertaking will be grouped around two main pillars:

2.18The public members of the JU will be the European Union (represented by the Commission) and EU Member States that wish to participate. Membership is also open to those countries that are associated to EU Framework Programmes for research and innovation (e.g. Horizon 2020). So far thirteen countries have stated their intention to participate (France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Portugal, Spain Belgium, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Greece, Croatia and Switzerland). Private sector members will include academic and industrial users, represented by the European Technology Platform for High Performance Computing (ETP4HPC) and the Big Data Value Association (BDVA). The regulation allows for new members to join at a later date should they wish.

2.19It is envisaged that the EuroHPC JU will be funded by the current Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) budget to a value of around €486 million (approximately £431 million) and that this contribution will be matched by additional contributions from participating countries. Detailed budgets and timelines are yet to be determined.

Explanatory Memorandum from the Minister dated 29 January 201813

2.20The Minister at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Sam Gyimah MP) states that the UK is one of the world leaders in this field (both in science research and use by industry).

2.21In relation to the proposed Joint Undertaking, the Minister states that:

2.22The Minister adds that there are no direct financial implications for the UK. The JU will draw funds from the budgets already prescribed under the current MFF of Horizon 2020 and the Connecting Europe Facility. The total contribution from this would be €486 million (approximately £431 million). Participating countries are expected to match this, and private companies are expected to contribute €422 million (approximately £384 million).

Previous Committee Reports

None on this proposal. The Committee has previously reported on a Commission Communication (The European Cloud Initiative) which outlined its intention to bring forward this proposal in HC 71–ii (2015–16) chapter 16 (25 May 2016).


2 Proposal for a Council Regulation on establishing the European High Performance Computing Joint Undertaking COM(2018) 8 final.

3 See HC 71–ii (2015–16) chapter 16 (25 May 2016).

4 The Minister’s Explanatory Memorandum (published on 29 January 2018) is not yet available online, but the Department for Exiting the European Union should make it available soon on the relevant European Memoranda web-page.

5 HM Government, Industrial Strategy: Building a Britain fit for the future (27 November 2017).

6 The Minister’s Explanatory Memorandum (published on 29 January 2018) is not yet available online, but the Department for Exiting the European Union should make it available soon on the relevant European Memoranda web-page.

7 HM Government, Industrial Strategy: Building a Britain fit for the future (27 November 2017).

8 Exascale computing refers to computing systems capable of at least one exaFLOPS, or a billion billion calculations per second.

9 European Commission, Communication: A Digital Single Market Strategy for Europe COM(15) 192.

10 European Commission, European Cloud Initiative—Building a competitive data and knowledge economy in Europe COM(2016) 178 final.

11 Proposal for a Council Regulation on establishing the European High Performance Computing Joint Undertaking COM(2018) 8 final.

12 A unit of computing speed equal to one thousand million million floating-point operations per second.

13 The Minister’s Explanatory Memorandum (published on 29 January 2018) is not yet available online, but the Department for Exiting the European Union should make it available soon on the relevant European Memoranda web-page.




5 March 2018