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Concerted action for the European HPC CoEs

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - FocusCoE (Concerted action for the European HPC CoEs)

Reporting period: 2020-06-01 to 2022-03-31

Our society is facing massive challenges: Climate change and the biodiversity crisis are forcing a switch to a de-carbonised and, more generally, circular and sustainable economy; threats for public health due to aging populations, pandemics and pollution; the need to adapt to geopolitical and economics shifts. The solution of many core technical challenges can be facilitated by the use of advanced computing. At the same time, the European Union has clearly identified the strategic importance of reducing its dependency on the import of resources (both technological and energy resources) from other parts of the world. High Performance Computing (HPC) has been recognised by the European Union as a key component of the digital single market strategy and the EuroHPC Joint Undertaking has been created to support an integrated European HPC ecosystem covering all scientific and industrial value chain segments (hardware, software, applications, services, interconnections, and skills) - the European HPC Centres of Excellence (CoEs) constitute the applications-oriented pillar of the European HPC Initiative.
The overarching FocusCoE objective was to support the CoEs to fulfil their role in the European HPC Ecosystem: ensuring that extreme scale applications result in tangible benefits for addressing scientific, industrial and societal challenges.
In order to realise that overarching objective FocusCoE defined a set of specific objectives:
• To create a platform, realised as the HPC CoE Council (HPC3), which allows all HPC CoEs to collectively define an overriding strategy and collaborative implementation for interactions with and contributions to the EU HPC Ecosystem.
• To support the HPC CoEs to achieve enhanced interaction with industry, and SMEs in particular, through concerted out-reach and business development actions.
• To instigate concerted action on training by and for the complete set of HPC CoEs: providing a consolidating vehicle for user training offered by the CoEs and by PRACE and providing cross-area training to the CoEs.
• To promote the whole set of HPC CoEs’ capabilities and service offerings and to develop the EU HPC CoE “brand”, raising awareness with stakeholders and both academic and industrial users.
The project ran from December 2018 until March 2022 and reached its four main objectives, despite the fact that, due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, physical meetings only started to be possible again in Q3 2021.
1. The HPC CoE Council (or HPC3 for short) was established in May 2019, gathering all active CoEs. It has met monthly since then, taken 5 additional CoEs on board in October 2020 / January 2021 and consolidated its role as a spokesperson for the HPC CoEs. Interactions with the ecosystem were driven by an active role of the HPC3 office. Options for HPC3 sustainability have been investigated, and the CoE members continue HPC3 operation after the end of FocusCoE.
2. FocusCoE significantly contributed to the industrial outreach of CoEs by facilitating and managing joint cross-CoE participation in industrial sectorial events. The significant adverse effects of the COVID-19 pandemic could be largely mitigated, and the outreach targets were achieved by using a mix of online, hybrid and physical meetings. This was complemented by creating best practice guides on physical and online industrial events, holding workshops specifically on SME outreach, business-related workshops and trainings for the CoEs, and a cross-CoE study on innovation management.
3. FocusCoE carried out concerted training actions for and to the EU HPC CoEs. A training registry was devised to suit the CoEs’ needs and implemented based on the PRACE-6IP project’s “HPC in Europe Portal”, employing the HPC CoE Website as a CoE-centered front end. Six transversal training events and workshops were organised for the CoEs (on pedagogy for HPC trainers, research commercialisation, business development and sustainability, co-design), attracting over 200 attendees. Template HPC training materials were created, based on two HPC applications, giving CoEs important support for developing their own materials. A workshop at the EuroHPC Summit Week 2021 discussed the training perspectives of the EU-13 member states.
4. The project has established and promoted the EU HPC CoE Brand via the Website, social media communication and (mainly online) events. The Website functions as a central information hub with CoE-related news, events, training offers, use cases and success stories has boosted the number of visits. A new CoE technology registry greatly simplifies perusing the CoE’s application codes and software tools.
As a coordination and support action the FocusCoE objectives and corresponding workplan did not target project activities with a primary objective to create exploitable results. Nevertheless, there are project results that have the potential to be exploited (under further development) by future actions in support of the European HPC ecosystem. Components of the hpccoe.eu website can be taken up by planned EuroHPC JU actions in support of both national HPC competence centres (NCCs) and the HPC CoEs. The software that implements the training registry (accessed through the aforementioned website) can also be exploited by future actions promoting training and education from the HPC ecosystem, including, but not limited to, the EuroHPC support actions for NCCs and CoEs.
Although the originally planned methods for supporting CoEs had to be modified due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the major objectives have borne fruit – realizing a great deal of cross-CoE collaboration and interaction. As an example, FocusCoE coordinated concerted outreach to industry by identifying and organizing participation in 11 sectorial events related to work being done by HPC CoEs. In all, the EU HPC CoEs are active in the domains of climate and weather modelling, energy, computational (bio-)medicine, material science, engineering, quantum chemistry, solid earth, and global challenges. FocusCoE also hosted workshops for the HPC CoEs addressing various aspects related to business development and best practices for industry outreach. Additionally, 6 CoE directed training events were organized around EU HPC training needs and best practices while trainings offered by HPC CoEs were promoted via a centralized CoE training registry. The Covid-19 related shift from in-person to virtual activities in the middle of the project also prompted FocusCoE to create template materials and guides for both in-person and virtual events, which will support current and upcoming EU HPC CoEs in a greater variety of activities in the future. Overall, these activities worked to increase awareness of and competence in HPC applications across the EU HPC ecosystem to ensure a robust user base for the HPC CoE software that will be used on the next generation of HPC machines.
With the completion of the project activities has delivered on all expected impact items for the INFRAEDI-02-2018 specific challenge (b):
• Access to consultancy and services (including training) offered by CoEs for external potential users and learners.
• Maximise visibility and outreach of Centres of Excellence, in particular to industry.
• Promoting the use of HPC by identifying industrial and SMEs users in the different business areas, and matching their needs with the available expertise in the CoEs.
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