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EuroHPC highlights Finnish know-how, increases Finnish research prospects and enables more expert resources for science and business innovations

EuroHPC highlights Finnish know-how, increases Finnish research prospects and enables more expert resources for science and business innovations

Nina Lundahl

Now that summer has turned to autumn, it is time to summarize the viewpoints highlighted in the summer's interviews on the decision to place one of the EuroHPC undertaking's supercomputers in Finland. The decision provides Finland as well as Finnish research and higher education with a wide range of opportunities.

The LUMI (Large Unified Modern Infrastructure) consortium was formed for the EuroHPC pre-exascale supercomputer application process. This consortium is led by Finland, and eight other countries belong to the consortium. The EuroHPC Joint Undertaking decided in June 2019 to place one of the three pre-exascale supercomputers to CSC's datacenter in Kajaani.

This article presents some of the key aspects pointed out in interviews with Jyrki Katainen, Vice-President of the European Commission and Commissioner responsible for the EU's employment, growth, investments and competitiveness, Jaakko Hirvola, CEO of Technology Industries of Finland, Ilkka Niemelä, President of Aalto University and Kimmo Koski, Managing Director of CSC.

EuroHPC invests in European competitiveness

Vice-President Katainen explains the EuroHPC's background through the EU's principles on supporting science, research and innovation activities in order to secure Europe's global competitiveness.

– In practice, we need to invest in the digital infrastructure that supports research in order to safeguard our competitiveness. This investment will provide us with the resources required to conduct European research, and enable Europe to retain its position at the cutting edge of scientific development, Katainen states.


 
At the initial stage of the EuroHPC Joint Undertaking's, the EU and and the 29 member countries invest in three pre-exascale supercomputerst. One of these computers will be placed in the city of Kajaani, Finland, where it will serve both national research activities and those of other EU countries.

Katainen sets high expectations to Kajaani's ecosystem and, in particular, to data-based business models, such as platform economy and artificial intelligence.
 
Watch the whole interview with Jyrki Katainen (Video in Finnish)

High-performance computing essential in Finland's research and education

Aalto University President Ilkka Niemelä mentions that high-performance computing has been an essential part of science already for a long time.

– Nowadays the whole concept of science is becoming data-based, and this development comes with new challenges, Niemelä explains.

According to Niemelä, data is an essential resource, but an enormous amount of computing power is required to conduct experiments on methodologies such as deep learning with authentic data. Effective research activities also secure the rapid development of research methodologies.

In Niemelä's opinion, the EU's decision to invest in computing capacity is a good start for safeguarding the competitiveness of European research. Niemelä considers this investment a brilliant opportunity for Finland to promote its profile as a vital and attractive European country in the field of artificial intelligence, for example.

– Finland has a long history in artificial intelligence research. We have a solid standing in Europe as we have a strong knowledge base and an ecosystem that has enabled companies to leverage this expertise.

Niemelä encourages various operators to increased openness in marketing Finland's capacity to engage in efficient collaboration with universities, research institutions, business operators, CSC and other interest groups.

Watch the whole interview with Ilkka Niemelä (Video in Finnish)

EuroHPC rescues companies from the shortage of technology experts

CEO of Technology Industries of Finland Jaakko Hirvola warmly welcomes EuroHPC's LUMI supercomputer as a generous addition to the computing power available to Finnish research activities.

According to Hirvola, the increased computing capacity opens new opportunities to artificial intelligence applications in particular.

– It is important to increase the volume of artificial intelligence research in the fields of both basic research carried out by higher education institutions, and applied research conducted for the purposes of companies, Hirvola says. He also emphasizes the importance of extensive resource allocation to innovation collaboration and investment in educating programmers specialized in new technologies as well as other experts to provide companies with much-needed workforce.

Picture: Jaakko Hirvola, Kimmo Koski and CSC's Program Director Irina Kupiainen.

Hirvola mentions that according to a survey carried out by Technology Industries of Finland, approximately 10 percent of the organization's member companies already utilize artificial intelligence applications. However, according to estimates, this share will increase to 50 percent within four years.

Businesses' demand and expectations for the utilization of artificial intelligence are high, and Hirvola hopes that the increased computing capacity results in closer collaboration between companies and research communities.

Watch the whole interview with Jaakko Hirvola  (Video in Finnish)

LUMI ecosystem: Finland to become one of world's key operators in the field of high-performance computing

– EuroHPC is an enormous opportunity for Finland, states CSC's Managing Director Kimmo Koski. According to Koski, the investment of over 200 million euros to Kajaani in the fields of data analytics, artificial intelligence and high-performance computing lays a foundation and a solid platform for operations that provide competitive added value to Finnish research and companies' innovation activities.

Koski states that a project of this magnitude is Finland's first remarkable achievement in the field.

The primary reasons for placing one of the project's supercomputers in CSC Kajaani's facilities were the operational environment's cost- and eco-efficiency as well as its socially and geographically stable surroundings. Other important factors include the solid expertise and experience-based capacity that was provided with the collaboration of nine countries in the LUMI consortium.

- The LUMI consortium has taken a completely new approach to research investments. Instead of providing input only within a country's own borders, we invest in Finland collaboratively. Finland must meet the expectations these investments set by ensuring that in addition to Finland, Kajaani's ecosystem serves the consortium's other countries as well as the EU's science and innovation activities, Koski says, setting further expectations for the consortium's collaboration regarding future projects promoted by the EU.

Watch the whole interview with Kimmo Koski  (Video in Finnish)

Endeavoring to improve expertise and retain Europe's capacity to conduct research and innovation

The concern that research activities are relocated outside of Europe is a driving force behind the EuroHPC's investments in supercomputers and the infrastructure that support their use.

The relocation of activities poses challenges related to the management and ownership of data. It hinders the education of new experts at higher education institutions and research institutions and exposes European science and business innovation operations to critical brain drain.

The Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture's collaboration project Vision for higher education and research in 2030 defines a common future scenario which enables the development of a high-quality, effective and internationally competitive higher education and research system in Finland by the year 2030.

The project's concrete objectives include ensuring that half of Finland's youth complete a higher education degree to increase their capacity as competent workforce, to promote effective RDI (Research, Development & Innovation) activities and versatile higher education as driving forces for changing the society's economic structures and to support this development with sufficient resources and guidance.

Various Finnish projects invest in developing the country's ICT infrastructure to provide better facilities for research and innovation activities and the entire higher education sector.

In addition to the extensive EuroHPC investment, numerous data management and data connection development programs that serve national research activities as well as higher education and other education functions are underway: Data and Computing 2021 development program invests approximately 37 million euros in hardware and related services. The Funet 2020 project modernizes the backbone network connections for research purposes.

Read more: EuroHPC, LUMI consortium and Kajaani's ecosystem



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