Insights European Commission presents European Cloud Initiative to “give Europe a global lead in the data-driven economy”

The Commission says that Europe is the largest producer of scientific data in the world, but insufficient and fragmented infrastructure means that this “big data” is not being exploited to its full potential.

By bolstering and interconnecting existing research infrastructure, the Commission plans to create a new European Open Science Cloud that will offer Europe’s 1.7 million researchers and 70 million science and technology professionals a virtual environment to store, share and re-use their data across disciplines and borders.

This will be underpinned by the European Data Infrastructure, deploying the high-bandwidth networks, large-scale storage facilities and super-computer capacity necessary to effectively access and process large datasets stored in the cloud.  “This world-class infrastructure will ensure Europe participates in the global race for high performance computing in line with its economic and knowledge potential”, the Commission says.

Focusing initially on the scientific community, the user base will over time be enlarged to the public sector and to industry.

The Commission says that the European Cloud Initiative will make it easier for researchers and innovators to access and re-use data, and will reduce the cost of data storage and high-performance analysis.  Making research data openly available will help boost Europe’s competitiveness by benefitting start-ups, SMEs and data-driven innovation, including in the fields of medicine and public health.

The Commission will progressively put in place the European Cloud Initiative through a series of actions, including:

  • as of 2016: creating a European Open Science Cloud for European researchers and their global scientific collaborators by integrating and consolidating e-infrastructure platforms, federating existing scientific clouds and research infrastructures, and supporting the development of cloud-based services;
  • 2017: opening up by default all scientific data produced by future projects under the €77 billion Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, to ensure that the scientific community can re-use the enormous amount of data they generate;
  • 2018: launching a flagship-type initiative to accelerate the nascent development of quantum technology, which is the basis for the next generation of supercomputers;
  • by 2020: developing and deploying a large scale European high performance computing, data storage and network infrastructure, including by acquiring two prototype next-generation supercomputers of which one would rank among the top three in the world, establishing a European big data centre, and upgrading the backbone network for research and innovation.

In addition to the European research community, the European Open Science Cloud and the European Data Infrastructure will be accessible and bring benefits for a host of other users:

  • businesses will have cost-effective and easy access to top-level data and computing infrastructure, as well as a wealth of scientific data enabling data-driven innovation. This will particularly benefit SMEs, which typically lack access to such resources;
  • industry will benefit from the creation of a large-scale cloud eco-system, supporting the development of new European technologies such as low-power chips for high performance computing; and
  • public services will benefit from reliable access to powerful computing resources and the creation of a platform to open their data and services, which can lead to cheaper, better and faster interconnected public services. Researchers will also benefit from online access to the wealth of data created by public services.

The public and private investment needed to implement the European Cloud Initiative is estimated at €6.7 billion.  The Commission estimates that, overall, €2 billion in Horizon 2020 funding will be allocated to the European Cloud Initiative.  The estimation of the required additional public and private investment is €4.7 billion over a period of five years.  To read the Commission’s press release in full, click here.