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European supercomputers ignite business innovation

Speed read
  • Explaining HPC services to private firms can be a challenge for scientists
  • Industrial Advisory Committee bridges the gap between academia and the private sector
  • By promoting the use of HPC, the IAC fosters economic growth and competitiveness in Europe 

When Lee Margetts was a geology student at the University of Durham in the early 1990s, crayons were his unexpected ally.

“My classmates and I had lab classes where we printed out copies of seismic surveys,” Margetts says. “We were taught to find oil by drawing with crayons. That was high-tech then.”

Now, advances in scientific research methods like high-performance computing (HPC) enable members of both the public and private sectors to ditch the crayons and run countless simulations, increasing efficiency for organizations.

<a href='http://www.prace-ri.eu/'>Partnership for Advanced Computing in Europe</a>

However, explaining the benefits of HPC — replete with complicated computational concepts and technical terminology — is a challenge academics have to overcome when communicating with private firms.

This is where Margetts steps in. As vice chairman of the Industrial Advisory Committee (IAC), Margetts advises PRACE on how they can help European companies benefit from HPC.

“Most of the IAC members are people that are enthusiastic, energetic, and want to see their industries adopt HPC,” Margetts says. “It’s a very dynamic environment.”

Providing advice for corporations on their HPC use is just one part of Margetts' role on the committee. Facilitating conversations between universities and corporations is a critical part of the IAC's position within PRACE, along with reviewing applications for industrial access to the PRACE HPC systems.

“Usually what happens in an academic organization like PRACE is that they have ideas about how to engage with and improve their interaction with industry, specifically to improve awareness and then adoption of HPC systems in European companies,” Margetts says.

Members of the IAC committee come from a variety of business domains, including those in the engineering/manufacturing sectors, which is an area Margetts says has potential for growth in using HPC systems.

“There are companies like Jaguar Land Rover that have invested in their own data centers and HPC systems,” Margetts says. “They are designing their vehicles completely virtually. There’s big growth in the industry.”

<strong>Code switching.</strong> The PRACE Industrial Advisory Committee (IAC) is the liaison between academic and business interests. IAC vice chair Lee Margetts speaks both languages. Courtesy University of Manchester; Lee Margetts.One initiative the committee has enjoyed reviewing is Sesame Net, which provides HPC support for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) that fall below a certain number of employees.

The network is a partnership between academic and industry leaders in Europe that encourages HPC use among smaller businesses.

“Sesame involves academic supercommputing centers and private firms that offer HPC services,” Margetts says. “They work together to create an ecosystem for these companies and encourage them to use HPC.”

Research technology has come a long way from the days of crayons and paper. But with the assistance of the IAC, there are multiple opportunities for groups in both the public and private sector to take advantage of the full capacity of HPC systems.

To learn more about the IAC and other committees at PRACE, visit their website

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