On 12 June, the Large Unified Modern Infrastructure (LUMI) supercomputer was inaugurated in Kajaani (Finland). With the commissioning of the world's third-fastest supercomputer, Europe is once again catching up with the world leaders. Switzerland also plays an important role in strengthening the European Research Area by providing both financial and technical support to the LUMI consortium.
The new supercomputer is operated by the LUMI consortium, which consists of Finland, Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Iceland, Norway, Poland, Sweden, the Czech Republic and Switzerland. These countries share a long tradition of cutting-edge computational research.
Half of the funding for the LUMI supercomputer came from the EU's Horizon 2020 framework programme for research and innovation and half from the LUMI partner countries themselves. Switzerland contributed EUR 10 million for procurement and operation of the infrastructure, which covers roughly five percent of the total costs. By providing both financial support and technical expertise to the LUMI consortium, Switzerland is helping to strengthen the European Research Area, thus confirming Switzerland's importance as an active and reliable partner.
Cutting-edge research made possible by the most modern infrastructure
Supercomputers have a vital role to play in cutting-edge research as they enable researchers to calculate, model and simulate complex systems and process huge amounts of data, e.g. in the fields of medicine and climate research. Computer simulations help to solve phenomena such as climate change and issues related to renewable and fusion energy, to develop new vaccines faster or to discover or produce more effective treatments and medicines.
With the commissioning of the world's third-fastest supercomputer, Europe is once again catching up with the world leaders. Even in the current expansion phase, LUMI already holds third place in the global ranking of the world's fastest computers. In the second half of 2022, a further expansion phase will take place, which will more than double its computing power.
Electricity from renewable hydropower
The supercomputer was installed on the site of a former paper mill and existing building materials were repurposed, enabling significant reduction of LUMI's carbon footprint. The town of Kajaani is situated about 500 km north of Helsinki. Thanks to the favourable climate in the region, very little energy is needed to cool the computer.
While LUMI is setting new standards in energy efficiency, even the most energy-efficient supercomputers consume a lot of electricity. Therefore, the way electricity is generated is very important. LUMI draws all its electricity from 100% renewable hydropower. In addition, the waste heat generated by LUMI is harnessed and transferred to the town of Kajaani's district heating grid. This results in a negative total carbon footprint. The waste heat produced by LUMI is expected to cover around 20% of Kajaani's annual district heating needs.
Now that the infrastructure is up and running, this extraordinarily powerful tool will be optimally used for the benefit of society. Researchers can apply for access to LUMI resources through a competitive procedure.
The European High-Performance Computing Joint Undertaking (EuroHPC JU) was established in 2018 as a joint undertaking between 27 European countries and the European Commission. The aim of the venture is to pool resources from participating countries to drive a common European agenda in high-performance computing, to establish an ambitious research and development programme for European technologies, and ultimately to procure and offer computing capacity to the research community. By the end of 2020, Swiss research institutions were able to successfully participate in practically all EuroHPC projects. In addition to the LUMI infrastructure project, for example, Switzerland joined 14 other projects for a total volume of EUR 4.8 million. As of January 2021, Switzerland is no longer a member of EuroHPC, as this requires association either with the Horizon Europe programme or with the new Digital Europe programme.
SPH-EXA is a newly designed program code,
co-developed by the University of Basel, University of Zürich and ETH Zurich.
Thanks to its modern design, it is one of the first software codes able to make the most of future exascale machines such as LUMI. This supercomputer will enable extreme-scale simulations in the ﬁelds of cosmology and astrophysics. This will open the way for research into long-standing and cutting-edge problems, allowing researchers to simulate the formation, growth, and merging of super-massive black holes in the early universe. Such simulations would have a great impact within the scientiﬁc community. Moreover, the ability to simulate planet formation with high-resolution models will play an important role in consolidating Switzerland's position as a leader in experimental physics and observational astronomy. These simulations would also greatly advance projects such as the current NCCR PlanetS funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF).
Peter Brönnimann, SERI
Scientific Advisor, EU Framework Programmes Unit