Explanatory Memorandum to COM(2018)8 - Establishing the European High Performance Computing Joint Undertaking - EU monitor

EU monitor
Saturday, May 30, 2020

Explanatory Memorandum to COM(2018)8 - Establishing the European High Performance Computing Joint Undertaking

Please note

This page contains a limited version of this dossier in the EU Monitor.


Reasons for and objectives of the proposal

The term High Performance Computing refers to the technologies and the use of powerful supercomputers (interconnecting in a single system or in close proximity of hundreds of thousands or millions of computing units working in parallel) to perform massive and fast computations that are so demanding that they cannot be performed using general-purpose computers. High performance computing methodologies include modelling and simulation, advanced data analytics and visualisation that are used for highly computational or data intensive tasks in a very wide range of scientific, engineering, industrial, business and public sector applications. HPC is at the core of major advances and innovations in the digital age where to out-compute is to out-compete. It is a key technology for science, industry, and society at large:

– HPC is an essential tool to address major scientific and societal challenges such as

(to name just a few) the early detection and treatment of diseases, new therapies based for example on personalised and precision medicine; deciphering the functioning of the human brain; forecasting climate evolution; observing space; preventing and managing large-scale natural disasters; and accelerating the design of new materials.

– The use of HPC is having a growing critical impact on industries and businesses by

significantly reducing design and production cycles, minimising costs, increasing resource efficiency, and shortening and optimising decision processes.

– HPC is also essential for national security and defence, e.g. in developing complex

encryption technologies, tracking and responding to cyberattacks, deploying efficient forensics, and in nuclear simulations.

Europe's scientific capabilities, industrial competitiveness and sovereignty depend critically on access to world-leading HPC and data infrastructures to keep pace with the growing demands and complexity of the problems to be solved. Although the Union acted in 2012 to step up its efforts to ensure leadership in the supply and use of HPC systems and services1, this has insufficient to date. As a result:

(a) the Union does not have the best supercomputers in the world, and those it has depend on foreign HPC supply chains, exposing it to an increasing risk of being deprived of strategic or technological know-how for innovation and competitiveness;

(b) the supercomputers available in the Union do not satisfy demand. To fill the gap, European scientists and industry are seeking access to top machines located outside the Union to process their data. This may create problems, in particular as regards the protection of personal and sensitive data e.g. commercial data or trade secrets), and the ownership of data, in particular for sensitive applications such as health;

(c) Member States' and the Union's investments in HPC remain largely uncoordinated and the industrial take-up of HPC technology developments is low. As compared with competitors in the United States, China and Japan, the Union and its Member

Commission Communication on High-performance computing: Europe’s place in a global race (COM(2012) 45 final)

States are clearly underinvesting in HPC with a funding gap of EUR 500-750 million per year.

(d) the Union is failing to turn its investments in technology development into European technology based HPC systems that it procures, i.e. it lacks an effective link between technology supply, co-design with users, and a joint procurement of systems; and

(e) the failure to create a lead market in HPC means failure to create a competitive European HPC supply industry in a market projected to be worth around EUR 1 trillion in the next 10 years.

To address these issues, at the Digital Day in Rome (organised on 23 March 2017 as part of the 60th anniversary celebrations of the Treaty of Rome), seven Member States – France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain – signed the EuroHPC declaration.2 They were subsequently joined by Belgium, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Switzerland, Greece and Croatia. The 13 countries agreed to work together and with the Commission in acquiring and deploying by 2022/2023 a pan-European integrated exascale supercomputing infrastructure (EuroHPC). Other Member States and associated countries were invited to sign the EuroHPC declaration.

The target set by the Union is to reach exascale performance, i.e. a performance level of computing systems capable of executing ten to the power of eighteen operations per second, by the years 2022 or 2023. The increase of computing power beyond the exascale would include post-exascale technologies and likely quantum computers. These are computing devices exploiting quantum physical effects, rather than the traditional transistors. As an intermediate step to reach exascale performance pre-exascale performance, i.e. 20% to 50% of the exascale performance, should be reached by 2019.

The countries signing the EuroHPC declaration recognised that there is an urgent need for them and for the Union to invest together in order to: acquire and offer to Europe's scientific and industrial users a leading-edge HPC infrastructure matching their demanding application requirements; and develop in Europe an own world-class exascale3 HPC infrastructure by 2022/2023.

Achieving these objectives will require a new legal and financial instrument allowing two world-class pre-exascale machines of a few hundred petaflops3 each to be procured (in 2019/2020) and made available to public and private users in order to develop leading scientific and industrial applications that will foster the development of a broad pre-exascale ecosystem in Europe. The instrument will also need to support the R&D and technology development required for co-designing competitive European exascale machines, including the first generation of a European low-power microprocessor technology, a key technology for reaching exascale capability in Europe by 2022/2023. The procurement of exascale systems would, however, not be part of the current proposal.

In summer and autumn 2017, the Commission carried out an impact assessment to identify the best instrument for achieving these goals, while promising the best economic, societal, and environmental impacts and safeguarding the Union’s interests. A Joint Undertaking was



Measuring the floating-point operations per second (FLOPS) of a computer qualifies the performance of a computer. One peta-flop (petascale machines) corresponds to ten to the power of fifteen FLOPS and one exa-flop (exascale machines) corresponds to ten to the power of eighteen FLOPS.



found to represent the best option. A Joint Undertaking provides a legal, contractual and organisational common framework to structure the joint commitments entered into by its participating members. It also provides its members with a firm governance structure and budgetary certainty. It can implement joint procurement and operate world-class HPC systems via the promotion of (in particular European) technology. It can act as the owner of the pre-exascale supercomputers funded jointly by its members and so facilitate non-discriminatory access to them. Lastly, it can launch R&D&I programmes for developing technologies and their subsequent integration in European exascale supercomputing systems, thus closing the chain from R&D to the delivery and operation of exascale HPC systems, and contributing to the development of a competitive European technology supply industry.

The EuroHPC Joint Undertaking will draw its funds from the current Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) budgets already committed for HPC activities in the work-programmes for the last two years of Horizon 2020 and the Connecting Europe Facility. The EuroHPC Joint Undertaking will not rely on additional funding from the next Multiannual Financial Framework to achieve its objectives. Should funds become available in the next Multiannual Financial Framework, the Regulation of the EuroHPC Joint Undertaking would need to be amended in order to define a new mandate to cover the procurement and operation of the exascale infrastructure, the development of HPC technology coming after the exascale, and the procurement and operation of such a post-exascale infrastructure, including its eventual integration with quantum computing technologies. An amended, broadened mandate would be underpinned by a proportionate impact assessment in line with Better Regulation requirements.

How will the EuroHPC Joint Undertaking operate?

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

procurement and operation of HPC and data infrastructures: acquisition of world-class supercomputing and data infrastructures, their deployment, interconnection and operation; and providing and managing access to these infrastructures for a wide range of public and private users, and

an HPC research and innovation programme: supporting an R&I agenda for European HPC technology and know-how development; applications and skills development and a wide use of HPC.

Membership of the Joint Undertaking will be as follows:

public members: the Union (represented by the Commission) and the Member States

and Horizon 20204 associated countries wishing to participate (Participating States). Currently, the Participating States are the 13 countries that have signed the EuroHPC declaration: France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Belgium, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Greece, Croatia and Switzerland, but other Member States and Associated Countries may yet join them, and

private Members: representatives of HPC and Big Data stakeholders, including

academia and industry. The associations ETP4HPC5 and BDVA6 representing the private entities in the contractual public-private-partnerships have submitted letters




of support for the implementation of the EuroHPC initiative and expressed their intere st in contributing to the activities of the Joint Undertaking.

The governance of the Joint Undertaking will be structured as follows:

a Governing Board (c om posed of re presentativ es of the public members of the Joint Undertaking) will be responsible for strategic policy making and the funding decisions relating to the Joint Undertakings procurement and R&I activities. In principle, members voting rights and procedures will be in proportion to their financial contributions, and

an Industrial and Scientific Advisory Board (composed of representatives of the private members of the Joint Undertaking). To avoid conflicts of interest, in particular with the procurement of pre-exascale supercomputers for the suppliers of high performance technology, this board will have an advisory role only and will include two advisory groups:

a Research and Innovation Advisory Group, which will include representatives of academia, industry users and technology suppliers and be responsible for drawing up a medium- to long-term R&I agenda on technology and applications, covering the research, innovation, applications and skills development activities supported by the Joint Undertakings R&I programme, and

an Infrastructure Advisory Group, which will include experienced academic and user industry experts selected by the Governing Board and will provide it with independent advice on the procurement and operation of the supercomputers owned by the Joint Undertaking.

The EuroHPC Joint Undertaking will start operating in 2019. In 2019-2020 it will launch open calls for R&I proposals for funding HPC technology and application development activities. It will also procure two world-class pre-exascale machines of a few hundred petaflops and co-finance the acquisition of at least two additional machines of the order of a few tens of petaflops.

The Joint U nderta king will procure and own the HPC machines funded mainly by the Union. The Participating States will procure and own those funded mainly by themselves.

The Joi nt U nderta king will acquire its pre-exascale supercomputers in two steps:

it will first select a hosting entity in a Member State participating in the Joint Undertaking that provides the necessary facilities to host and operate a supercomputer (typically a superc o m puti ng centre). The Governing Board will establish the criteria for the selection of the hosting entity. The Joint Underta king and the hosting entity will sign a hosting agreement setting out the entity s responsibilities in installing and operating the HPC machines. The pre-exascale supercomputers will be located in a Member State as the overall objective is to support the development of an integrated High Performance Computing ecosyste m in the Union7.

secondly, the Joint Undertaking will launch the procedure to acquire the supercomputer to be instal led and operated in the selected hosting entity.


Article 3(1)(a) of the Council Regulation establishing the European High performance Computing Joint Undertaking

The Union financial contribution, under the current Multiannual Financial Framework, would be EUR 486 million, matched by s im il a r a m ounts f ro m the Participati ng States and the Pri vate Members of the EuroHPC Joi nt Underta k ing .

The Joint Undertaking will use these funds mainly to implement its activities under the two pillars (see above). In particular, the second pillar (the HPC Research and Innovation Programme ) will address the programme-coordination nefficiencies that the Commission is currently experiencing as a result of having to implement the HPC strategy through separate work programmes (Horizon 2020 and the Connecting Europe Facility). The Governing Board will be responsi ble for:

aligning the content and the timing of the various calls with the HPC strategic agenda;

ensuring coherence between the topics of the calls; and

putting in place the appropriate funding instruments to achieve the objectives, in particular innovation procurement to accompany the route from European HPC technology development to the procurement of European machines.

By using the Horizon 2020 rules, the Joint Underta king will be able to introduce provisions to protect the Unions economic and strategic interests of the Union, i.e. protecting intellectual property (I P R) produced in the Union and first exploiting all EU-funded R&I results in the Union.


with existing policy provisions in the policy area

The 2012 Communication on "High performance computing: Europe's place in a global race"1 highlighted the strategic nature of HPC as a crucial asset for the EU's innovation capacity.

On 19 April 2016, the Commission adopted the European Cloud Initiative, as part of its Digitising European Industry strategy.8 This involves the Commission and the Member States creating a leading European HPC and big data ecosystem, underpinned by a world-class HPC, data and network infrastructure. Such an infrastructure would help the EU to become one of the world's top supercomputing powers by 2022/2023 thanks to exascale supercomputers based on European technology.

Consistency with other Union policies

On 10 May 2017, the Commission adopted a Mid-term review of the digital single market strategy9, in which it announced its intention to propose, by the end of 2017, a legal instrument providing a procurement framework for an integrated pan-European exascale supercomputing and data infrastructure.

The policy intervention also builds upon the Digitising European Industry policy package (see above).

Communication on Digitising European industry – reaping the full benefits of a digital single market (COM(2016) 180 final) and SWD(2016) 106


COM(2017) 228 final




Legal basis

The legal basis of the EuroHPC Joint Undertaking initiative is Article 187 and the first paragraph of Article 188 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

Subsidiarity (for non - e xcl usive competence)

The growth in the importance of HPC for science and the public and private sectors in recent years has been accompanied by an exponential rise in the level of investment required to stay globally competitive. T his has led to a widespread recognition that Europea nisatio n in this area via a shared infrastructure and common use of existing capabilities would benefit everyone. T his includes Member States that may have difficulties in creating self-sufficient national HPC infrastructures while they can make valuable contributions to and benefit from federated and interconnected EU-level HPC capabilities.

The scale of the resources needed to realise a sustainable world-class HPC infrastructure and ecosystem is beyond what individual Member States can afford. No single Member State has the financial means to acquire exascale computing capabilities and develop, acquire and operate the necessary exascale HPC ecosystem on its own and in competitive timeframes as compared with the current world leaders in this domain (the USA, China and Japan). Knowledge and resources available in the Union need to be brought together to build a leading-edge HPC ecosystem across all value-chain segments, while EU-level investments and resulting services must be coordinated if the Unions HPC computing and data infrastructures are to be on a par with those of its global competitors.

Cooperation exists already in some areas among Member States, industry and science. Examples include the PRACE10 Association, the HPC contractual Publ ic- Private- Pa rtners hip ETP4HPC, the Big Data contractual Publi c- Pr ivate- Partners hip and GÉANT.11 EuroHPC builds on these as the key investors in the EuroHPC signatory countries are already represented there.

Political support from Member States on EuroHPC has already been explicitly given by the Council, by the signatories of the EuroHPC Declaration, and by the European Parliament12.


The proposal complies with the principle of proportionality as set out in Article 5 of the Treaty on European Union, as it consists of an effective cooperation framework, suited to all intervention areas of this initiative, does not go beyond what is necessary to solve the problems identified and is proportionate to its objectives. More specifically:

First, it sets up a joint procurement framework for an integrated world-class pre-

exascale computing and data infrastructure in Europe, overcoming the fragmentation of national HPC investment plans and the difficulties of acquiring supercomputers based on European technology. It will pool resources from the Union, the Participating States and the Private Members. Funding for the EuroHPC Joint Undertaking is already available in the Union budget (commitments for HPC activities in the last two years of Horizon 2020 and the Connecting Europe Facility).

www.prace-ri.eu/">www.prace-ri.eu/ www.geant.org">https://www.geant.org

12 European Parliament, Report on the European Cloud Initiative (2016/2145(INI)), Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, Brussels, 26 January 2017.


The need for additional funding from the Participating States and the Private Members will be limited as the proposal relies to a large extent on commitments or investment plans that they already have for the coming years;

Second, the funding instruments are already available, i.e. Horizon 2020 and Connecting Europe Facility. Beneficiaries and participants will be faced with no additional admini strati v e burden compared with the present situati on, and

Third, the initiative builds on existing initiatives such as PRACE, the contractual-Public-Private-Partnerships ETP4HPC and B DVA, and the HPC Centres of Excellence which will continue to play a decisive role in implementing the objectives of the Joint Undertaking. In the future it will rely on them to provide access to HPC capacities in Europe, support user communities in developing and adapting their applications in operating supercomputers.

Choice of instrument

The creation and operation of a Joint Undertaking in which the Union participates requires a Council Regulation.





Since the publication of the 'European Cloud Initiative' Communication, which outlined the objectives of a European strategy on HPC, various steps have been taken to inform stakeholders of the objectives of the strategy and invite them to help shape it. The Commission has organized several workshops, including the Digital Day in Rome (23 March 2017) as have stakeholder organisations such as ETP4HPC, PRACE, and the European Science Cloud.

The Commission has had regular informal meetings with representatives of a core group of Member States that signed the EuroHPC declaration in March 2017 to discuss the roadmap and implementation of a joint European initiative on HPC. It also organized two workshops ( 5 and 26 October 2017), to which all Member States were invited where it presented presenting the objectives of the initiative and the proposed implementation model (Joint Undertaking) and asked Member States for their feedback and comments.

In August 2017, the Commission published a targeted consultation on a joint European initiative on HPC. This was advertised through social media, a website and targeted e-mail invitations. Views were sought from stakeholders considered to represent the European HPC community to the best extent, such as the scientific user communities of HPC infrastructures (e.g. the 29 large research infrastructures of the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI), the PRACE scientific users, the European Data Infrastructure (EUDAT), and the European Grid Infrastructure (EGI)), ETP4HPC, BDVA, centres of excellence for supercomputing applications, supercomputing centres, HPC service providers, HPC access providers, HPC R&I associations and national and EU-funded HPC projects.

Almost 100 replies were received, some of which were the consolidated opinion of a stakeholder association. The outcome of the consultation was overwhelming support for a joint European initiative. It also revealed a broad consensus on the major HPC-related issues in Europe and the priorities for addressing them with scientific users, industrial users, supercomputing centres and the supply industry all expressing similar opinions.

Collection and use of expertise

The Commission has ex per ie n ce in setting up and managing Joint Undertakings. In particular, it will benefit from the experience of implementing the Electronic Components and Systems for European Leadership (ECSEL) Joint Undertaking13 in an area related to HPC, namely micro- and nano-electro nics. The two Joint Undertakings have some industrial players in common and it is expected that the technology developments for the highly specialised of supercomputer markets will find their way into the mass-markets addressed by ECSL.

Im pact assessment

The Commission carried out an mpact assessment of the following policy options:

a baseline scenario (no policy intervention) including revision of the current instruments for achieving the objectives of the European HPC strategy;

a European Research Infrastructure Consortium (ERIC), and;

a Joint Undertaking.

Other options, such as a European Economic Investment Grouping (EEIG),

Intergovernmental Organisations and Galileo-like structures were discarded as it was evident that their legal basis would not satisfy fundamental requirements for the implementation of a joint European HPC initiative.

The Commission examined the extent to which the three retained options would:

be effective in achieving the objectives of the joint European initiative;

meet the functional requirements of the legal and financial i nstrument;

safeguard the interests of the Union, and

have positive impacts on the economy, competitiveness, society and the environm ent.

In conclusion only the Joint Underta king was considered to have the most positive impact on al l those poi nts.

The inherent risks of a public-private-partnership would be mitigated by the EuroHPC Joint Undertaking in the following ways:

procurement: all the Joint Undertaking's procurement operations will be under the sole responsibility of the Governing Board (composed only of its public members).

This will guarantee that sound procurement decisions can be made without interference of the Private Members (in particular of the HPC supply industry) either in the joint public procurement process for the pre-exascale machines or in decisions on how the public funds will be spent;

— sound and timely implementation of activities: the Joint Undertakings objectives and tasks will be clearly defined and their implementation will be regularly monitored against well-defined deliverables and annually-set key performance indicators. Other measures will include an ex-post evaluation of its activities every two years, with corrective measures being implemented, as needed;:

procurement programme: The Joint Undertaking will benefit from the


experience of many of its public members in procuring supercomputing

13 www.ecsel.eu/">www.ecsel.eu/

systems. Furthermore, the programme will be planned and monitored with the help of the members of the Infrastructure Advisory Group whom the Governing Board will select carefully so as to include experts experienced in procuring and monitoring the operations of national HPC machines.

R&I programme: this will be designed and implemented in a similar way to

the current HPC programme under Horizon 2020. It will be based on research and innovation agendas prepared by its Private Members participating in the Scientific Advisory Board of the Joint Undertaking (including representatives of the two contractual public private partnerships, ETP4HPC and BDVA) .

investment risks: the contribution of the Union budget to the Joint Undertaking is

already available and most of the Participating States have already planned their HPC commitments or investment plans for the coming years. The mid-term evaluation of ECSEL, which had similar objectives demonstrated a large leverage effect as regards private investment: the Joint Activities led to additional private investment of 4. 26 Euro for each euro of public investment.

On 25 October 2017, the Regulatory Scrutiny Board delivered a positive opinion with reservations on the Impact Assessment. The proposal takes into account the Board's recommendation by providing in Article 4 that the Joint Undertaking would operate with funding from programmes under the current Multiannual Financial Framework and by describing in Article 3 the objectives, and in Article 1 of the Annex (Statutes) the tasks, that the Joint Undertaking should fulfil. Lessons learnt from the set-up and management of existing Joint Undertakings, in particular through the recently concluded mid-term evaluation of ECSEL, have been taken into account. Both Joint Undertakings are similar in their structure and objectives; the main difference is the large procurement activities in EuroHPC which is absent from ECSEL. This difference explains the attribution of voting rights in proportion to the contribution of the participants, as reflected in Recital 25 of the EuroHPC proposal and Article 6 of its Annex (Statutes).


fitness and simplification

This proposal for a Regulation establishing a Joint Undertaking is in line with the Comission's Better Regulation Guidelines, in particular it proposes regulating only where necessary and in a proportionate manner. It follows the ECSEL model as far as possible, drawing on experience gathered in that context and taking into account the recommendations of the ECSEL mid-term review.

Setting up a EuroHPC Joint Undertaking would help to simplify implementation of the HPC activities currently implemented by the Commission through Horizon 2020. Commission would delegate power to the Joint Undertaking to implement the Union's HPC activities over two different programmes (Horizon 2020 and the Connecting Europe Facility) and three parts of the Horizon 2020 work programme (‘Future and Emerging Technologies’ (FET), ‘Leadership in Enabling and Industrial Technologies ICT’ (LEIT-ICT) and ‘Research Infrastructures’). This approach would alleviate the difficulties of synchronising and coordinating activities to achieve the objectives of the European HPC strategy, and reduce negotiations with four different Programme Committee configurations to a negotiation within a single Governing Board.

The proposal will benefit Member States, scientific users of HPC, industry (including SMEs), supercomputing centres and ultimately citizens. The Joint Undertaking will make Europe's HPC capabilities world-class, have a direct positive impact on societal challenges (e.g. health,

environment, climate, etc.), manufacturing and engineering, fundamental science, national security and safety, and foster a European supply industry for digital technologies.


There are no additional budgetary implications under the current Multiannual Financial Framework, since the EuroHPC Joint Undertaking would draw its funds from the budgets already committed for High Performance Computing activities in the work-programmes for the last two years of Horizon 2020 and the Connecting Europe Facility. In total EUR 486 million would be available from both Programmes.

This is to be matched by the same amount from the Participating States, as part of their programmes to upgrade their national HPC infrastructure.

The private entities should provide a similar amount, as part of their current commitment to the contractual public-private-partnerships ETP4HPC and BDVA, for the remaining duration of Horizon 2020.


Implementation plans and monitoring, evaluation and reporting arrangements

Once the two pre-exascale supercomputers go into operation, a mid-term evaluation will determine the effectiveness of the Joint Undertaking as a legal and financial instrument for achieving the objectives of the European HPC strategy. In particular, it will assess the level of the Participating States' and Private Members' participation in, and contribution to, the actions of the Joint Undertaking.

The Joint Undertaking will publish an annual activity report highlighting actions taken, corresponding expenditure, and the acquisition and operation of the HPC and data infrastructure procured and owned by the Joint Undertaking. Achievement of the general objectives will be assessed against the general key performance indicators for Joint Undertakings funded from Horizon 2020 and the key performance indicators specific to EuroHPC.

Detailed explanation of the specific provisions of the proposal

Article 1 establishes the EuroHPC Joint Undertaking, specifying the duration and its seat.

Article 2 provides definitions of petascale, pre-exascale, exascale, supercomputer, hosting entity, hosting agreement, access time, acceptance test, Participating State, Private Member, affiliated entity, constituent entity and user.

Article 3 specifies the general and specific objectives and activities of the EuroHPC Joint Undertaking.

Article 4 specifies the Union's financial contribution to the administrative and operational costs of the EuroHPC Joint Undertaking with funding from the Horizon 2020 and Connecting Europe Facility Programmes.

Article 5 specifies the participating states’ and private members’ funding contributions to the administrative and operational costs.

Article 6 refers to the hosting entity which the Joint Undertaking is to entrust with the operation of the pre-exascale supercomputers and specifies the process whereby it is to be selected.

Article 7 sets out the contents of the hosting agreement laying down the roles and responsibilities of the hosting entity.

Article 8 provides that the Joint Undertaking should be the owner of the pre-exascale supercomputers it procures until the end of their economic lifetime when they are transferred to the hosting entity.

Article 9 sets out the access conditions for users of the supercomputers.

Article 10 specifies how the European Commission and the EuroHPC Participating States will be compensated for their financial contribution to the acquisition of the pre-exascale supercomputers: each contributor will be allocated a share of the total access time in proportion to its financial contribution.

Article 11 specifies the financial rules of the Joint Undertaking; these are in line with the Financial Regulation.

Article 12 specifies the conditions under which the Joint Undertaking will provide commercial services.