Source: European Economic and Social Committee
The EESC supports the European Commission’s initiative to create the European High-Performance Computing Joint Undertaking and states that this key technology will help tackle the most challenging issues facing society today and will ultimately benefit our well-being, competitiveness and jobs.
In the opinion adopted at the EESC Plenary Session on 23 May 2018 and drafted by Ulrich Samm and Antonio Longo, the Committee emphasises that the EuroHPC Joint Undertaking will definitely bring added value to the EU’s digital sovereignty and independence, making the Union a crucial player in digital development, with a direct impact on competitiveness and people’s quality of life. The initiative is part of a wider EU strategy, including the European cloud strategy, the Cybersecurity Act, the review of Digital Single Market strategy and the European Gigabit Society.
“The starting investment of EUR 1 billion for the acquisition and operation of world-class supercomputing machines is significant but is not overly ambitious, especially if we compare it to the other main actors – the USA and China,” noted Mr Samm. “We need further efforts by the EU to match those of our global competitors,” he added. In particular, a substantial increase in investments in the EU Member States, together with a strong European research and innovation programme, will be essential to remain at world-class level in HPC applications.
The development of the next generation of low-power microchips in Europe is a key objective of the EuroHPC and will help meet the savings goals of the EU’s energy strategy. The EESC therefore supports the Commission’s proposed industrial approach: it will make the EU less dependent on imports, secure access to top HPC technology and have an impact on small-scale computing. High-end integrated circuits can in fact be adapted (downscaled) to appliances on the mass market (such as PCs and smartphones and in the automotive sector).
The EESC also recommends strengthening the social dimension of the digitalisation process as much as possible, within the framework of the European Social Pillar, by setting a number of societal challenges to be met using the new digital infrastructure. “The implementation and use of high-level machines must have a clear and measurable positive impact on the daily lives of all European citizens,” said Mr Longo. “This is why we also call for a communication strategy at European level to be put in place to inform citizens and enterprises about this important new initiative”.
Ideally, the approach should be twofold. Firstly, civil society organisations could help disseminate information about the new technology, thus helping boost citizens’ confidence in the EU. Secondly, a more focused campaign should target European enterprises, in particular SMEs, to showcase the opportunities that the new technology offers and to support them in accessing and using the new infrastructure.