as of today Leonardo is a reality!
It is a great satisfaction for me to inaugurate an exceptional infrastructure, a unicum, a concentrate of technology designed according to our requirements by a European industry, Atos, together with an international industry, Nvidia, which has produced a microprocessor specifically for the Leonardo system. The result is one of the most powerful supercomputers in the world, which also has great capacity immediately available to the user community. Power consumption has been optimised by using Atos direct liquid cooling technology to dissipate the heat produced by the 5,000 computing nodes. The entire data centre was designed and built for Leonardo, a custom-built house under Pier Luigi Nervi's vault. In addition to managing the complexity, getting to today's appointment was a race against time, made possible thanks to the great professionalism and availability of all the companies involved. But if we are here, the merit is also due to the daily work of all the people at Cineca, regardless of their role, from Naples to Milan, via Chieti, Rome and Bologna. Thanks to everyone, and thanks to Cineca's HPC area and its director Sanzio Bassini!
Leonardo is not an episodic or fortuitous event, but part of a story that began more than 50 years ago (I was not yet born) when 4 universities decided to join forces to acquire the first supercomputer to support research and innovation. That seed sprouted and today there are 112 public entities in the consortium, over 1,000 employees and Leonardo is Cineca's 19th supercomputing system. Over the years, the farsightedness of the national system of research institutions has never failed, as has the guiding action of the national government, and this has enabled Cineca to become one of the most recognised supercomputing centres in the world. Cineca's supercomputing infrastructure has always been in the top 500 worldwide: since 2000 among the top 50, in the last 10 years among the top 10, and now fourth in the world (a result never achieved before)! But the infrastructure would not have been sufficient if at the same time Cineca had not been able to develop high-level specialist skills to support scientists and technologists, research institutions and companies.
Leonardo is not an individual enterprise but a joint effort, taking shape in 2018 as the result of a shared vision and a virtuous convergence of actions on several levels: European, national and local. While a European strategy for supercomputing was being drawn up in Europe and EuroHPC was being created with the aim of overcoming the individual actions of the various Member States and competing on a global scale with the great continental powers, the United States and China, the Emilia-Romagna Region (together with the institutions of the territory) was promoting the development strategy of the Technopole of Bologna as a supercomputing and big data hub. Thus, when the time came to choose where to locate the three European pre-exascale-class supercomputers, Italy was ready and decided to seize the opportunity: a large public investment, amounting to 240 MEuros, half financed by MUR and half by EuroHPC. The project itself is also the result of a joint effort by Cineca with INFN and SISSA, as part of a consortium of five countries in addition to Italy: Austria, Greece, Hungary, Slovakia and Slovenia. A project that with different roles and at different times was supported by various people who are in the room today and whom I would like to thank. A project that started with Cineca President Giovanni Emanuele Corazza, continued with Eugenio Di Sciascio and which I now have the honour of inaugurating.
Leonardo is not an isolated system but the centre of an ecosystem, which multiplies opportunities and triggers new trajectories: the Technopole (this place), set along the knowledge route of the city of Bologna, an open-air construction site not only in the literal sense. It is a place of contamination where various threads weave into a single plot: the ECMWF Data Centre, the INFN Data Centre, the Agenza Italia Meteo, ENEA, universities, companies and the newly-established National Research Centre in HPC, Big Data and Quantum Computing (financed by the MUR with PNRR funds), which, among other things, provides for further investments at the Technopole together with CNR and INAF, and which tomorrow, in this very room, will hold its first public meeting to launch its activities. And still other threads, which today we only glimpse or imagine and which could soon become reality.
Leonardo is not an end but a means, a means at the service of all: it has no value in itself but for what it enables the scientific community to do, first and foremost, which is the lifeblood of the infrastructure, but also for the economic-productive world and the Public Administration. Like all great research infrastructures, supercomputing is closely linked to the advancement of science in the various domains of application, and the union between research and supercomputing in Italy has been and is particularly lively and productive. I am thinking of Enrico Fermi's initial intuition, Carlo Rubbia's Nobel Prize, and the Italian Fabiola Gianotti at the head of the world's largest high-energy physics laboratory, Cern in Geneva. I am thinking of the science of matter and materials, the chemical physics community and the great intuition of the Car-Parrinello method (developed with the support of Cineca's supercomputing systems), which has made an extremely important contribution to the ability to design new materials. The recent award of the Nobel Prize to Parisi in the physics of complex systems and its application to the study of climate change and global warming to Prof. Hasselman are confirmation of the importance of supercomputing for scientific research.
It is equally valuable and decisive for the industrial system, as demonstrated by the major investments made by Eni and Leonardo Company in their own supercomputers. In particular, Eni's system, managed by Cineca on the basis of a 20-year collaboration agreement, is the most powerful industrial system in the world. I could cite many other success stories that also involve SMEs, but I will limit myself to just two: Bonfiglioli Riduttori, which has led the largest project funded by the European Commission for the development of digital twins in industry, and Dompè, which will speak in the afternoon session and which uses supercomputing in drug development and, specifically, has used it in the selection of molecules for the identification of effective drugs to contain Sars-Cov.2 viral replication.
Leonardo is not an achievement but the trigger for many possible new stories, from the observation of the cosmos to materials science, from space economy to climate change, from genomics to digital twins of cities, from the prediction of extreme natural events to personalised medicine, from renewable energy to cybersecurity, from agrifood to cultural heritage, from the fight against fraud to the ambitious European programme Destination Earth, which aims to develop a digital replica of the globe by 2030.
It will be up to each and every one of us to commit ourselves, each for our part as we have always done so far, to ensure that Leonardo generates the expected opportunities, especially for young people like Ilaria Siloi, develops its full potential by attracting talent from all over the world, helping to reduce disparities, improve the quality of life of citizens and tackle major global challenges. It will help us push the knowledge frontier further and give a strong impetus to the digital innovation of the country and of Europe.
I am certain that this will happen, that we will know how to look to the future with the same farsightedness as in the past, continuing to nurture that long thinking that has allowed us to get this far. I am certain that we will know how to be ready for the upcoming events: the inauguration of the first quantum computer at the Tecnopolo in 2024 and, above all, the expression of interest presumably in 2026 for the post-exascale supercomputer that will succeed Leonardo! After all, it was Leonardo da Vinci himself who taught us to think big: 'once you have learnt to fly, you will walk the earth looking at the sky'.
Images of Cineca President Francesco Ubertini's speech
President of the Republic Sergio Mattarella at the inauguration of Leonardo