With the establishment of the governing bodies of the ICSC Foundation (which will manage the Center), the project of the National Research Center in High Performance Computing, Big Data and Quantum Computing (ICSC), one of the structures envisaged by the "Education and Research" mission of the National Recovery and Resilience Plan, which has allocated an investment of 1.6 billion euros to the five centers, takes off. Proposed by the National Institute of Nuclear Physics (INFN), the National Supercomputing Center has 51 founding members distributed throughout the national territory, coming from the public and private sectors, from the world of scientific research and industry. After the start of the National Center for Sustainable Mobility, in June, the first plenary assembly of the ICSC Foundation represented the kick off of the Center for Supercomputing, with the election of Antonio Zoccoli (president of the INFN), to the presidency of the Foundation and the ten members of the Board of Directors: Emilio Fortunato Campana of the CNR; Paolo Maria Mancarella of the University of Pisa; Francesco Scarcello of the University of Calabria; Donatella Sciuto of Politecnico di Milano; Simona Tondelli of the University of Bologna; Francesco Ubertini of Cineca; Matteo Laterza of UnipolSai; Elisabetta Oliveri of Autostrade per l'Italia; Andrea Quacivi of Sogei; Francesca Zarri of Eni.
The new National Center will be based at the Bologna Technopole, a citadel of innovation promoted by the Emilia-Romagna Region, also thanks to investments by the Italian Government and the European Community – which already houses the Data Center of the European Weather Center (ECMWF) and will soon welcome the Leonardo supercomputer managed by Cineca, and the INFN Computing Center –, and will network and systematize the specific knowledge, skills and resources of realities operating throughout Italy in multiple areas, with the aim of building a distributed and transversal infrastructure that supports scientific research and the productive world in innovation and digitization of the country. The project, which has as its transversal objectives the reduction of gender disparity in professional careers and the gap between North and South of the country, will be able to count on a funding of about 320 million euros (319,938,979.26 euros, to be exact), of which 41% is intended for investments in the South.
In particular, of the total funding, over 100 million euros will be dedicated to staff, an investment that is considered a priority, with a female participation of at least 40%, and with almost 16 million euros reserved for doctoral scholarships and therefore for higher education and the career of young people.
Index of topics • The mission of the ICSC Center • The organization according to the Hub & Spoke model • The first steps and the objectives to be achieved The mission of the ICSC Center The Center will carry out Research and Development activities, at national and international level, in favor of innovation in the field of simulations, calculation and analysis of high-performance data. These activities will be carried out starting from a cutting-edge infrastructure at international level for High Performance Computing and big data management, capable of systematizing resources and promoting and integrating emerging technologies. In the coming years, ICSC will implement solutions that will lead to a network speed of more than 1 Terabit/second, and will provide users with a cloud infrastructure that will allow the management of activities at the frontier in scientific research and industrial development. The new National Supercomputing Center will focus on the maintenance and enhancement of the Italian HPC and big data infrastructure, and on the other hand on the development of advanced numerical methods and applications and software tools, to integrate the calculation, simulation, collection and analysis of data of interest for the research system and for the production and social system, also through cloud and distributed approaches. ICSC will engage and promote the best interdisciplinary skills in science and engineering, enabling substantial and sustainable innovations in fields ranging from basic research to computational and experimental sciences for climate, environment, space, from the study of matter and life to medicine, from materials technologies to information systems and devices. The Centre will also support higher education and promote the development of policies for responsible data management in the perspective of open data and open science, combining regulatory, standardization and compliance profiles. ICSC will be a shared and open cloud/HPC infrastructure, and will be a unique strategic asset for Italy, but also for the international community. The organization according to the Hub & Spoke model The National Center will aggregate the Italian scientific communities of excellence in ten different areas, universities and Italian companies to build a synergy between the scientific communities and the industrial world, for the benefit of both the research system and the production system, and will be organized according to the Hub and Spoke model. The ICSC Foundation includes, in fact, several universities of the Peninsula – University of Milan Bicocca, University of Sapienza of Rome, University of Bologna, Federico II University of Naples, the Polytechnic of Milan and that of Turin, just to name a few – companies (including Autostrade per l'Italia, Engineering Ingegneria Informatica, Eni, Ferrovie dello Stato, Leonardo and Fincantieri) and leading realities in the field of scientific research, such as the National Institute of Nuclear Physics (INFN), Cineca, GARR, the National Research Council (CNR), the National Institute of Astrophysics (Inaf), the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV), the Italian Institute of Technology (IIT), the Euro-Mediterranean Center on Climate Change (CMCC), the Enea Agency and many others. The Hub will be responsible for validating and managing the research programs, whose activities will be elaborated and implemented by spoke and their affiliated realities, also through calls open to research institutions and companies. The Spoke will be ten and will take care of as many thematic areas: Future HPC & Big Data Fundamental Research & Space Economy Astrophysics & Cosmos Observations, Earth & Climate Environment & Natural Disaster Multiscale Modeling & Engineering Applications Materials & Molecular Sciences In-Silico Madicine & Omics Data Digital Society & Smart Cities Quantum Computing The Spoke Future HPC & Big Data and Quantum Computing will be of a technological nature and will have as a frontier objective the development of advanced chips and microchips and emerging technologies such as those for quantum computing. The National Centre has also equipped itself with an Ethics and Data Governance Board (EDGB) and a data management unit, as well as a committee for access to supercomputing resources that will be fundamental to enable the research program of thematic Spokes with computational capabilities and power. Finally, to optimize and evaluate the socio-economic impact of its activities, ICSC has set up a dedicated research group that will operate transversally to spokes. The first steps and the objectives to be achieved The National Centre will enter into full operation on September 1st. Among its first initiatives, there will be the publication by 2022 of the first calls for doctorates and recruitment of researchers and to follow the first open call to involve other subjects in innovation activities. From a technological and infrastructural point of view, on the other hand, among the main stages there is the upgrade of the Leonardo supercomputer to Cineca and the INFN computing center, the acquisition of a quantum computer to be placed at the Technopole, the completion of the GARR-T network (Terabit) and some interventions for the creation of thematic satellite centers in other Italian locations. While, in 2024, the enhanced cloud infrastructure will be made available to users. ICSC will become a unique and frontier ecosystem with a strategic role for the country because it will make available to its partners resources and tools that they could not realize and support individually. On the basis of this vision, a function of guidance, coordination and support will be carried out centrally, while the research and innovation activity will be entrusted to the Spokes who will be able to benefit from funding directly or through the Centre. In view of this, the Spoke and their affiliates will undertake at full capacity (from 2026 onwards) to support on their ordinary budget some measures financed during the start-up phase by the PNRR 2022-2025 funds, and to finance the Center with an annual contribution starting from 2022. During the first year of activity, a rewarding mechanism will be identified to encourage the most active and dynamic partners and researchers. The Centre intends to fulfill its strategic role by multiplying the opportunities for partners and stakeholders, maximizing the socio-economic impact in a competitive context, implementing something that does not exist today, without overlapping or competing with the individual research institutes already present, but instead creating added value for its partners and for society. And the key to the success of the initiative lies in the ability to create these conditions already in the start-up phase. "This Center, created thanks to the funds of the PNRR and the efforts of the actors involved, can really make a difference in the future of our country. Computing capacity and critical mass of people with high-profile skills are the elements that will make us competitive worldwide on all technologies involving HPC and big data, central elements also of IIT's future strategies", comments Giorgio Metta, Scientific Director of IIT (Italian Institute of Technology). "We will bring our Franklin supercomputer and expertise into a system to enable the Supercomputing Center, with the innovations it can bring, to improve people's quality of life," he adds. © REPRODUCTION RESERVED Michelle Chrysanthemums Bilingual journalist graduated from Kingston University in London. Always passionate about international politics, I lived, worked and studied in Spain, the United Kingdom and Belgium, where I had several experiences in the management of multimedia editorial offices and in the correction of content for the Web. In 2018 I worked as a press officer at the European Parliament, dealing with human rights and foreign affairs. Back in Italy in 2019, I now write mainly about technology and innovation.