EU to fund cloud-based supercomputers for SMEs

Small and medium-sized enterprises will have access to cloud-based supercomputers to run complex engineering simulations, under a €16m project backed by the European Commission.

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) will have access to cloud-based supercomputers to run complex engineering simulations, under a €16m project backed by the European Commission (EC).

The project, part of the EC’s Factory of the Future initiative, aims to build a Europe-wide supercomputer cloud, that will give small companies access to expertise and resources previously only available to multinationals

The project will help Europe’s specialist engineering companies develop cutting-edge products and lean manufacturing processes, said Max Lemke, deputy head of complex systems and advanced computing at the European Commission.

“To keep jobs and manufacturing in Europe it is essential to strengthen to role of SMEs. Using high-performance computing for modelling and simulation gives them a huge potential advantage,” he told Computer Weekly.

The EC plans to offer funding to create a network of specialist centres that will work with software developers to make on-demand design and simulation services available to SMEs.

“They can help SMEs design products, make manufacturing lean and efficient, and to manage the product lifecycle. Rather than build a large number of prototypes they will be able to produce cheaper digital mock-ups of products” said Lemke.

The centres will provide advice to SMEs on how they can use supercomputers to solve business and engineering problems, and will offer the access to computing resources on a pay-as-you go basis.

They will be networked together so that if a local centre does not have the solution an SME needs, advisors will be able to draw on expertise from other centres across Europe.

The project aims to encourage specialist software suppliers to move from expensive annual software licensing contracts, to pay-as-go services that smaller companies will be able to afford to use, as they need them.

“We want to give suppliers a controlled environment where they can try new business models," said Lemke.

By networking the centres together, Lemke hopes that he can make high-performance computing (HPC) software available to a much wider range of small and medium-sized companies

“We would like the software codes to be available to SMEs across Europe, not just to the SMEs in one region,” he said.

The project will build on existing initiatives, including Supercomputing Scotland which aims to help companies in energy, life sciences and financial services exploit high performance computing, alongside similar programmes in France and Germany.

The Commission expects to fund between 25 and 50 pilot schemes, that will each give two or three SMEs access to specialist software services in the cloud to help them design products, or improve their manufacturing processes.

“We would like the pilot to be sustainable beyond the duration of the project, and for the partners to continue in the long term,” said Lemke.

Companies have until the end of the year to put in their proposals for the project.

Max Lemke is speaking at the International Supercomputing Conference in Hamburg.

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