Widening access to HPC for Europe’s SMEs
Posted: 3 Jul 2019 | 11:50
The SHAPE programme, led by EPCC, has helped over 40 companies across Europe to get a foot on the HPC ladder, with benefits including reduced costs and faster time to market.
SHAPE was set up to raise awareness of high-performance computing (HPC) among European SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) and to provide them with the expertise required to take advantage of the innovation possibilities created by HPC. The ultimate aim of the programme is to increase the competitiveness of SMEs in Europe.
We recently surveyed SMEs who had completed SHAPE projects within the last year and most reported that they are continuing to use HPC, even if they had not been doing so before their project began. Many also reported an improvement in their business process. Other frequently reported benefits included a faster time to market with an associated reduction in costs and improved sales.
The potential range of SHAPE projects is diverse, for example the porting or parallelisation of the SME’s code to allow it to run on an HPC system, getting an SME up and running with a code already installed on an HPC system, or optimising an already running code for the SME’s specific use case.
It is satisfying to note that in addition to projects in traditional HPC fields (engineering, climate science, etc), SHAPE has supported projects from areas less well represented within HPC such as finance and medicine.
The example pictured here is from the Invent Medical Group (Czech Republic), an SME that creates cranial orthoses (head supports) via 3D-printing. Their designs require testing and this can of course be done in a laboratory. However it is much more efficient to carry out testing via simulation, which is where HPC comes in. During the SHAPE project, the SME was able try out ESPRESO (a standard open source HPC package), which could then be compared to the well-established commercial package ANSYS it was already using. This was a success as they were able to show that the use of an open source package did not compromise results in any way.
During a project the SME works closely with the PRACE partner to complete the required work while allowing the SME’s staff to gain new HPC skills. In addition SMEs get access to the HPC hardware resources they require - this may be on a conventional HPC system, but in some cases more novel hardware such as GPU nodes or visualisation suites may be appropriate.
Calls are issued twice a year, with the 10th Call running from 1 October 2019–1 December 2019. SHAPE can work with SMEs to develop a proposal and the process of applying is very lightweight with just a simple form to fill in.
Chris Johnson, EPCC
Image: Visualisation of a 3D-printed cranial orthosis produced by the Invent Medical Group, which took part in the SHAPE programme.