The Big Data Technopole

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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 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. Here, there is 70% of Italian computing and storage capacity and, always here, it is about to rise a new European research hub: the Big Data Technopole. At the former Bologna’s tobacco manufactury, the area designed by Pier Luigi Nervi in 1952, among the biggest industrial architectures of the XX century, Bologna’s Big Data Technopole will be located. 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) is going to be located. 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). Inside the Big Data Technopole, Leonardo will be placed as well. Leonardo is a high-performance computer, able to perform a billion billion operations per second. If it were already working, it would be today the most powerful high-perfomance computer in the world. 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. To strengthen the regional productive system’s ability to develop new solutions based on Big Data, Big Data Association was born. It brings together the Regional and National players operating in the high-performance computing field. 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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