The Big Data Technopole

IFAB was born in Bologna, in the heart of Data Valley.
Infrastructures, competences and high-performance computing are unique in the world: Emilia-Romagna as an European Big Data valley is, today, a matter of fact.

During these years, the Emilia-Romagna Region became a leader in the field of Big Data as well, with its millennial tradition as a knowledge European centre and with its concentration of knowledge, research and innovation. The core of the majority of the Italian computing and storage capacity is here, the place where a crucial European research hub is located: the Big Data Technopole. Thanks to it, Bologna and its historic university, known as the oldest university in the Western world, are still a fundamental hub for human knowledge.

The choice of Bologna is not random: the “city of the two towers” has a long history related to high performance computing systems. In 1961, the CNEN (now ENEA) decided to set its supercomputing center right in Bologna, activating for the very first time in Italy a system designed for computing, the IBM 704. In 1969, CINECA was founded – a consortium of North-eastern universities, with a CDC 660. In 1988, eventually, the GARR was founded – the national ultrabroadband network dedicated to education and research.

Bologna’s Big Data Technopole will be located on the site of Bologna’s former tobacco factory, an area designed by Pier Luigi Nervi in 1952 and among the biggest industrial architectures of the 20th century. The project of conversion of the area into a large scientific hub of excellence in the field of high-performance computing merges, in 100,000 square metres, research and high-performance computing infrastructures, among the most powerful ones in the world. Here, the ECMWF (European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts) has settled. It is an inter-governative infrastructure, founded in 1975 by 24 Countries. The Centre, which has its headquarters in Reading (UK), develops numerical models for medium-range weather forecasts, and produces and distributes weather forecasts to the founding Countries. In 2017 the ECMWF Council, after a European call for tenders, chose Bologna as venue for the new Data Center, which will use cutting-edge high-performance computers with a 10 times more powerful computing capacity compared to the current ones. The project will be realised thanks to a 62 million euros investment (43.5 by the Ministry of University and Research and 18.5 by the Emilia-Romagna Region).


The Data Handling System ECMWF – The European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts
Supercomputing for weather predictions in over 30 States


Entrepreneurship Hub
Business incubation and skill development in Big Data, Artificial Intelligence and Climatology


INFN – CNAF Data Centre
Gravitational waves and astro-particle physics, a direct link with CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research of Geneva


CINECA Data Centre
LEONARDO: the Supercomputer for today’s challenges and exploratory research


ENEA Laboratory
Industrial research on renewable energy sources, the environment and circular economy


International Research Area
IFAB and other research activities on climate and human development


ART-ER, IOR and the Municipality of Bologna
Gateway to the Tecnopolo Manifattura – Data Valley Hub and the biobanks for life science studies


Technopole Square
Catering and services in the remodelled former electric powerhouse


Conference Areas – The Salt Warehouse
Spaces for conferences and events in the historic Salt Warehouse

Inside the Big Data Technopole, Leonardo is placed as well. Leonardo is the fourth most powerful high-performance computer in the world, able to perform a billion billion operations per second. An investment worth 240 million euros which will offer Region’s and Country’s research institutes, Universities and companies the 50% of high-performance computing produced by the machine. Leonardo is part of the European network of High-Performance Computing, EuroHPC, and belongs to the roadmap towards the exascale computing drawn by the Interuniversity Consortium – CINECA and INFN (the Italian National Institute for Nuclear Physics), which will develop their data centres in the new Technolopole. The new research hub will also host:

  • the Competence Center for Industry 4.0 BI-REX for industrial innovation’s new trends;
  • the biobanks of Rizzoli Orthopedic Institute, global centre for research on bone protection and biocompatible materials;
  • ENEA, the National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development;
  • Arpae Emilia-Romagna, the Regional Agency for the Environmental and Energy prevention;
  • ART-ER, the Regional Agency for Development and Innovation;
  • the Italian Agency for Weather Forecasts;
  • INAF’s Array Center (the National Institute for Astrophysics), for the implementation of the Cherenkov Telescope;
  • the IBM Centre Big Data and AI for Aging;
  • Research university centres;
  • “Le Ballette” – startups’ incubator.

The Data Valley grown in Emilia-Romagna is the result of the ability of institutions, research communities and businesses to work in team for the innovation which the Emilia-Romagna Region believed in and invested in. A vision shared by local entities, educational institutions, and social partners since 2015, through the sharing of the Employment Pact. In 2019, to implement this huge strategic project, the Emilia-Romagna Region was equipped with a specific act; this was the first strategy-oriented regional act related to topics of Data economics. This act started IFAB, the International foundation Big Data and Artificial Intelligence for Human Development.


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