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High Performance Computing


The HPC-SME initiative: a time for regionalisation

The HPC-SME initiative, launched in 2010 by Inria, GENCI and Bpifrance, enables SMEs to measure and demonstrate the return on investment that they can expect from using simulation and high performance computing.
Building on its national success, this initiative is now being rolled out on a regional level to ensure increased effectiveness.

With over 50 SMEs receiving support in only four years, the HPC-SME Initiative has a very strong track record. Its success is first of all due to the unfailing investment of all of the project's players:  Inria, GENCI and Bpifrance, its founders, but also the competitiveness clusters, Aerospace Valley, Axelera, Cap Digital, Minalogic and Systematic. In order to enhance its effectiveness, the HPC-SME Initiative has gradually opened up to other university, academic and research partners and institutions (such as the CNRS, IFPEN, Onera, École Polytechnique… and regional computing centres (notably partners of the equipment of excellence (Equipex) " Equip@meso "), and institutional and industrial partners such as Intel and NVIDIA.

The richness of this network allows it to respond to the demands of SMEs from all industry sectors: transport, health, energy...notably by calling upon researchers - who are both skilled in the company's business areas and are themselves users of simulation and high performance computing - who share their knowledge and expertise. The latest company to have joined the initiative, INNOSEA for example, specialises in renewable marine energies. Thanks to the support of HPC-SME this company, which was created in 2012 and is based in Nantes, has been able to increase its high performance computing skills and thereby validate its simulation methodology for wake effects and turbulence in offshore wind farms.

Tailor-made support

"First of all, there were two factors behind this project, analyses Brigitte Duême, in charge of the HPC-SME Initiative at Inria:

  • On the one hand, there did not seem to be many mature SMEs on the market that were ready to absorb the technologies developed within the numerous Inria research teams in the field of simulation and high performance computing - something that hinders our institute's technology transfer mission.
  • For their part, the main problems facing SMEs are not linked to access to hours of computing time, but rather to the evaluation of the challenges in mastering them and their technical, human and financial "cost" and, as a result, of the risks to the company relating to the use of simulation and high performance computing - despite the fact that they are aware of the technology's potential. 

The HPC-SME Initiative came about in order to remedy these problems."

In concrete terms, the support provides the information the company needs - following an audit of its project analyzed from a competitiveness point of view - in terms of advice, training and expertise, or even co-development with a laboratory if relevant.This enables the company to adopt an appropriately-sized project based on its resources, and to be introduced to partners who can assist them with it. The Initiative ends when the business has been able to properly demonstrate the effectiveness of its solution, going as far as to demonstrate said solution using computing resources.

  • An example: after its time with the Initiative, the company Danielson Engineering, specialized in the design of engine prototypes, acquired a Bull supercomputer with 3.5 teraflops of computing power.
  • For its part, the company Principia, specialist in scientific engineering in the "marine" (Naval - Offshore) and "energy" fields, received invaluable help from the Initiative in order to adapt its algorithms to parallel computing and to propose them in "On demand" mode. Computing times were divided by ten as a result.

"Managing to integrate high performance computing into a business model is a long-term undertaking, Brigitte Duême considers. When the project was launched, we had little experience in the field, but we have gradually become capable of rapidly providing an answer to the requirements of each SME. As their issues differ, it is necessary to show great adaptability."

Towards more regionalisation

A need for flexibility and reactivity, which a very centralized national structure risks no longer being able to meet effectively, taking into account the increase in the number of SMEs concerned. "The idea of regionalising the Initiative took place gradually, Brigitte Duême explains. Firstly, we identified areas with several active SMEs, then we observed the motivation of the players in the region to help our initiative and confirmed the fact that establishing contacts between people, thanks to competent and motivated local representatives, was beneficial for the ecosystem.  The success of the Rhône-Alpes and South-West regions convinced us!"

In order to rapidly roll out this initiative, a response to the call for expressions of interest "Dissemination of digital simulation (French) " in the "Digital sector (French)" theme of the Investments for the Future Programme (PIA), the "Local support for SMEs" programme, was proposed. It is based on the same concept of an integrated and tailor-made solution as the one initially proposed by HPC-SME. "This cascading takes place through the implementation of regional platforms, in association with the Initiative's local partners, and will be based on the experience acquired as part of the Initiative, Brigitte Duême explains." Everything will therefore soon be ready to give a new dynamic to the HPC-SME Initiative, and thereby strengthen the competitiveness of French SMEs.

About the HPC-SME Initiative

Launched five years ago by Bpifrance, GENCI and Inria, in partnership with five competitiveness clusters (Aerospace Valley, Axelera, Cap Digital, Minalogic and Systematic), this initiative helps SMEs to integrate digital simulation and high performance computing into their development model. It is supported by the CNRS, IFPEN, Onera, and École Polytechnique, as well as technological partner Intel.

Around 50 SMEs are currently supported by the HPC-SME Initiative, across the whole of France and in all industry sectors.

A single point of entry: (French)

Keywords: Calcul intensif Initiative HPC-PME Calcul haute perfrmance Simulation Compétitivité GENCI Innovation Bpifrance