EU planning €6.7bn high-speed computing project, official tells Capacity Europe

EU planning €6.7bn high-speed computing project, official tells Capacity Europe

The European Union is planning a €6.7 billion research project on high-performance computing, to make it competitive with the US and Asia as the internet world speeds up.

Money will come from public and private sources, said the European Commission’s Pearse O’Donohue at the opening session of Capacity Europe today.

O’Donohue, acting director for the future of networks at the Commission, said: “Europe is lagging behind the US and Asia in high-performance, high-capacity computing.” He compared the planned programme with the project to develop Airbus in the 1990s and the Galileo satellite navigation system in the 2000s.

“No one country can achieve this alone – unless you’re China,” O’Donohue told the London conference. “We need our member states to work together.” Ministers have already backed the programme, he said.

The high-performance, high-capacity computing project was one of several – all linked to the Commission’s overall Digital Single Market (DSM) programme – that O’Donohue took the audience through at Capacity Europe.

“If we get it right the DSM can contribute €415 billion a year to the EU economy. A lot will happen anyway but we want to get rid of the barriers.” The Commission has a list of 43 initiatives under 16 general themes, he said.

The European Union has already abolished roaming charges within the 28-nation community and now is coordinating a clearance of 700MHz spectrum to make it available for 5G services, he said, but he listed cyber security as “critical to everything we do: trust and security are the key factors. If we don’t have trust, we don’t have security, and there will not be the massive uptake we need. It will slow down growth and it will put a put a barrier to economic development in Europe.”

The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which comes into force in 2018, is already being picked up worldwide by other countries “as the level of security they aspire to”, he said.

But the Commission also wants to open up silos of non-personal data, but preventing rules about where that can be stored. “We’ve identified 50 pieces of law that can restrict data flows.” Sometimes they are regarded as a requirement for tenders for projects: companies think local storage of data will make bids more likely to be successful, he said. “These are very wide laws and users have played safe and stored data locally.”

A more open data economy could contribute €739 billion a year, he said. “We want to create transparency about the restrictions.” That work “we now have on the table”, said O’Donohue. Heads of government have already given their support. “They said we need to have it quickly.”

He said that work on autonomous vehicles – despite some legal issues about responsibility in case of accidents – could help save the more than 1.2 million people who die on the roads each year, and save more than 10 billion litres of fuel wasted in traffic congestion. “And 14% of global warming emissions come from transport.” The total impact could be worth €1 trillion a year, he said.

O’Donohue took a little swipe at the telecoms industry for its lack of speed in developing new standards. “It’s amazing how processes that are industry-led can be so slow – that’s normally our problem,” he said.

He said the carrier business will benefit from the development of the internet of things (IoT). “We’re expecting 6 billion connections by 2020. We need to ensure the environment is there for Europe to be in the lead.”

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