Barcelona chosen to run one of Europe's most powerful supercomputers

European Commission awards Catalan capital one of three new supercomputers in 2021

MareNostrum 4 supercomputer at the Barcelona Supercomputing Center
MareNostrum 4 supercomputer at the Barcelona Supercomputing Center / Daniel Wittenberg

Daniel Wittenberg | Barcelona

June 7, 2019 11:02 AM

The Barcelona Supercomputing Center (BSC) has been chosen to host and operate one of the most powerful supercomputers in Europe from 2021, the European Commission has announced.

The BSC, with the support of five EU member states as well as the Catalan government, won the commission alongside teams from Finland and Italy as part of a pioneering continent-wide plan to compete with the USA, China and Japan as major international players in supercomputing.

The EU has pledged a total of 840 million euros – including its largest-ever research grant to the Spanish state of 100 million euros – for the project, which will contribute to building a supercomputer in all three candidate centers. It is the first time that the union is funding supercomputing facilities.

The rest of the funding will go to the building facilities in Italy and Finland, along with smaller supercomputing centers in Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Luxembourg, Portugal, and Slovenia. 

International backing

The BSC, Spain's national computing center since 2005, had the backing of the Spanish and Catalan governments, together with Portugal, Croatia, Turkey and Ireland, each of whom (except Ireland so far) have committed to joining the consortium that will manage the supercomputer.

Located next to the Barcelona Polytechnic University campus in northwest Barcelona, the BSC used to belong to the university before its partnerships with the Spanish education ministry and the Catalan government began in 2004, becoming a national center the following year.

MareNostrum, the jewel in the BSC's crown, was the most powerful supercomputer in Europe when it was built and booted up for the first time in April 2005. More recent versions continue to be used today for scientific research, meteorological simulations and designing medicines.

What is a supercomputer?

A supercomputer is a powerful computer with the architecture, resources, and components enabling it to process large amounts of data at high speeds. The latest generation, made up of tens of thousands of processors, can perform 150 billion computations per second.

The MareNostrum 4 supercomputer, which is currently the BSC's quickest, can perform closer to 10 billion per second, so the European project will represent a significant qualitative leap.