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High performance computing (HPC) and data analytics are at the heart of the emerging data economy. Research institutes and large companies are unlocking this potential through existing extensive R&D and innovation programs leveraging HPC and data analytics. Start-ups and SMEs can also hugely benefit from these technologies and Luxembourg’s newly inaugurated national HPC centre offers access to both the digital infrastructure and to processes tailored to stimulate innovation. The HPC centre tailors its “use & support” model to the individual needs of companies of all sizes and develops its ecosystem by participating in local start-up acceleration programmes like Fit 4 Start.

Bringing the benefits of digitalisation to its companies and its citizens by developing a well-functioning and accessible data economy is a priority in Luxembourg. The country sees it as a way of strengthening the competitiveness of its economy and increasing its sustainability over the coming decades. The digital ecosystem in Luxembourg is recognized for the high quality of its infrastructure, its connectivity, its expertise in cybersecurity, its secure data storage capacities and the recent addition of its business-oriented national supercomputer MeluXina. Luxembourg is in parallel growing a strong digital community culture where start-ups, small to large companies benefit from mechanisms of collaboration, fast access to competences and exchanges of best practices. In a fast-moving and connected world, complementing a strong digital and computing infrastructure with a collaborative culture plays an increasingly important role.

Business-oriented, modular HPC

65% of MeluXina’s capacity will be available for innovation, bringing together public research centres and businesses – start-ups and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) just as well as large international groups. It is also open for collaboration with universities, research organisations and public administrations.

“We wanted to propose an innovative computer architecture adapted to the needs of the Luxembourg economy and our strategy for data-driven innovation,” says Jean-Marie Spaus, HPC Project Coordinator at the Ministry of the Economy. Following discussions with the user community from the outset, the ministry brought together an innovative team that developed a modular supercomputing architecture adapted to businesses’ needs for various amounts of processing power.

MeluXina will provide a robust platform for science and industry for years to come.

“The system has been built on an efficient platform and is meant to serve a large variety of complex, data-driven computational workloads,” explains Valentin Plugaru, Chief Technology Officer of LuxProvide that manages the supercomputer. “Based on the Modular Supercomputing Architecture, its forward-looking design responds to the convergence of simulation, modelling, data analytics and artificial intelligence, and enables simulation driven by predictive analytics. MeluXina will provide a robust platform for science and industry for years to come.”

Closing the technology gap

MeluXina is one of eight HPCs – three pre-exascale and five petascale supercomputers – being set up by the European High Performance Computing Joint Undertaking (EuroHPC JU) across the EU. Stemming from an initiative taken by Luxembourg and three other EU member states five years ago, EuroHPC has the mission of developing a world-class supercomputing ecosystem in Europe. Its headquarters are located in Luxembourg. “We realised that if we wanted to close the technology gap between the EU and the rest of the world, we needed a network of European supercomputers,” said Luxembourg Minister of the Economy Franz Fayot at the inauguration ceremony of the Luxembourg HPC.

The supercomputer is a clear step forward for European HPC capacities. According to ranking organisation TOP500, MeluXina is the 10th most powerful HPC in the EU and the 36th most powerful one in the world. It also receives top marks for its energy efficiency: GREEN500 places it 1st in the EU and 4th in the world for this aspect. Its system is water-cooled, which removes the high operational costs of air-cooled systems and, in parallel, reduces the energy footprint. It also relies on the many-cores AMD EPYC processors and NVidia A100 GPUs to achieve remarkable efficiency in terms of performance to power consumption ratio (26.957 gigaflops/watt).

An ecosystem facilitating HPC use

The key objective is now to commercialise the HPC capability and work together with private sector-partners. In order to test the market, LuxProvide launched a competitive call for expressions of interest offering organisations the opportunity to run large-scale experiments and test their software on the HPC free of charge. Users from industry – large companies as well as SMEs – and academia submitted 38 applications, and the pilot projects will start running in October 2021.

Our goal is to make supercomputing accessible to all.

“This confirms our business model,” says Mario Grotz, Director General for Industry, New Technologies and Research at the Ministry of the Economy and Board Chair of LuxProvide. “But it is obviously not enough to just set up the HPC and expect everyone to be able to use it. Our goal is to make supercomputing accessible to all. We have set up a national HPC competence centre that provides operational support and training for users. The Ministry of the Economy also has R&D and innovation funding instruments that can be used to support HPC projects. The future is data-driven, and we will help businesses have the right tools to seize the opportunities of the data economy of the 21st century.”

Mr Grotz also points out that MeluXina has been designed as a highly secure infrastructure that guarantees the full confidentiality of all data processed. “Our objective is to work with public and private partners in a climate of trust.”

Start-ups welcome

The most recent initiative aimed at facilitating private-sector HPC use is aimed at start-ups. National innovation agency Luxinnovation runs a successful start-up accelerator programme called Fit 4 Start together with the Ministry of the Economy. Open to start-ups from Luxembourg and abroad in the ICT, healthcare and space sectors, it offers start-ups tailor-made coaching, attractive seed funding of up to €150,000 and access to incubator space. 5 out of the 20 selected companies in the next programme edition will be reserved for start-ups using the HPC to implement their business ideas.

“Granting access to Meluxina via Fit 4 Start is a very strong competitive advantage to the selected high potential start-ups in the acceleration programme across industries, says Stefan Berend, Head of Start-up Acceleration at Luxinnovation. We believe this is an outstanding opportunity for highly ambitious tech entrepreneurs to deliver cutting edge products and solutions to European markets.”

This article was initially published on  HPC Wire on 16 September 2021.

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