Photo: Fundação de Ciência e Tecnologia

Portugal unveils its “fastest ever supercomputer”

Minister says it will make “history in science

Deucalion, considered to be Portugal’s fastest national supercomputer ever, was officially launched today (September 6) for academics, companies and public administration, as part of a €20 million investment.

“Today we are once again making history in science,” said the minister for science, technology and higher education, Elvira Fortunato, at Deucalion’s inauguration ceremony at the University of Minho.

With the capacity to perform 10 million billion calculations per second, Deucalion aims to accelerate the production of science and innovation in Portugal in areas such as artificial intelligence, personalised medicine, drug design and new materials, Earth and ocean observation, combating climate change and fires, creating smart cities, land use planning, mobility and autonomous vehicles, according to the Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT).

The project received 35% funding from the EU, with the remainder coming from other sources, including the state budget, via the FCT.

“It was a great challenge that has been realised today. Portugal will have more and better research in the country, networked in Europe,” said FCT president Madalena Alves at the ceremony.

For the minister of science, the supercomputer “is national, but it is also an example of territorial cohesion.

“We hope that Deucalion can catalyse and attract new national and international investment” and “that it will be decisive “in the advancement of humanity, not just in Europe, but in the world,” she said.

At the ceremony, prime minister António Costa admitted that he couldn’t explain what a supercomputer, and used the opportunity to joke about one of Portugal’s seemingly never-ending issues: “Deucalion solves in an hour what a normal computer would take 20 years to do. I thought I’d borrow the Deucalion for three hours to see if we could solve the problem of the location of the future Lisbon airport.”

For the prime minister, Deucalion and the other computers installed in various cities across the country will work as a network and, according to António Costa, “allow the country to take a new leap forward”:

The supercomputer, hosted by the University of Minho, will be accessible to the academic and research community, companies and the public administration. The FCT will launch calls for tenders for access to the infrastructure and specific programmes to support small and medium-sized enterprises are also planned, according to the FCT.

As well as being able to respond to the growing need to process large volumes of data, Deucalion multiplies national computing capacity tenfold, which will make it possible to carry out “complex simulations and large-scale data analysis”, with an impact on areas such as genomics, physics, chemistry, materials, pharmaceuticals, energy, space, finance and manufacturing, “acting to optimise processes and develop new products based on precise simulations and data analysis”, the note adds.

According to the president of the FCT, Madalena Alves, Deucalion is prepared to support more than 200 projects a year.

The computer was expected to be operational at the beginning of 2022, but it was decided to extend the testing phase until the end of July.

The first supercomputer went into operation in Portugal in 2019 and is called BOB.

Source: Lusa