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In 2012 Barcelona will have one of the most powerful supercomputers in Europe, as part of the infrastructure for the European PRACE project (The Partnership for Advanced Computing in Europe), which was officially launched in the Catalan capital, although the association’s seat is located in Brussels.

President of the Government of Catalonia, José Montilla, presided over the inaugural meeting held at the Palau de Pedralbes. Others present included the deputy director general of the European Commission for the Information Society, Zoan Stancic; Italian secretary of state for Education, Universities and Research, Giuseppe Pizza; and Spanish secretary of state for Research, Felipe Petriz, among others. Neelie Kroes, Commission vice-president for the Digital Agenda said, "I warmly welcome the launch of this infrastructure because it is a key driver for the development of modern science and technology and for addressing the major challenges of our time like climate change, energy saving and the ageing population".

The PRACE project will coordinate supercomputing breakthroughs in European countries in order to guarantee that the EU is at the forefront of this sector. The project has 20 members, five of which are designated main partners: France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain. Participation in the PRACE project requires an investment of 100 million euros by 2014 from the Spanish and Catalan governments.

Recognition of efforts by Barcelona Supercomputing Center

Preliminary work for the PRACE project began in 2004, when representatives from eight European supercomputing centers first made contact to coordinate their efforts, and culminated with the constitution of this association devoted to joining forces to avoid fragmentation inside the EU.

Participation as a main partner guarantees that the country will always have a supercomputer ranked among the top five in the EU and in the world. This is possible thanks to a rotation system through which, each year, one of the main partners will start up a new high-performance machine, which will be the most modern in the EU and will be made available to European science and industry. The work plan establishes that Germany will have their supercomputer this year, France in 2011, Spain in 2012 and Italy in 2013.

The origins of Catalonia’s participation in this project lie in the Barcelona Supercomputing Center, headed by doctors Francesc Subirada and Mateo Valero, and the MareNostrum supercomputer, which in 2004 was the first supercomputer in the EU. Currently, the BSC has some 200 employees and the MareNostrum is working 80% of available hours, combining public research with research for private companies, including multinationals like IBM, Microsoft, Sun Microsystems, Airbus and Repsol.

Some examples of biomedical research that will be possible thanks to the PRACE infrastructure, and which will have a direct effect on quality of life in the area, are the study of protein folding in 3D, which will help us understand how drugs interact with cells in the human body, and the blood flow process in people suffering from cardiac diseases, which will allow for better prevention of heart attacks.

Being part of this European project is, therefore, a key milestone in the Catalan and Spanish governments’ strategic plans to move toward a new productive model based on research and innovation.


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