The Vital Importance of High-Performance Computing to U.S. Competitiveness

High-performance computing is a strategic resource for economic competitiveness, scientific leadership, and national security. To remain a leader in the field, the United States must commit to sustaining a robust ecosystem for the technology.

High-performance computing (HPC) refers to systems that, through a combination of processing capability and storage capacity, can rapidly solve complex computational problems across a diverse range of scientific, engineering, and industrial fields. High-performance computing has become indispensable for enterprises, scientific researchers, and government agencies to generate new discoveries and innovate breakthrough products and services. As such, HPC represents a strategic, game-changing technology with tremendous implications for economic competitiveness, scientific leadership, and national security.

This report explains why adoption, use, and production of HPC technologies matters. For commercial industries, The report also explains why it is important that the United States remains a leader in the production of high-performance computing systems, explaining that: 1) it is critical for U.S. national security; 2) it would be risky to depend on foreign vendors for access to leading HPCs should they no longer be produced in the United States; 3) there is a symbiosis between HPC production and use, and U.S. industries and enterprises benefit through first-mover advantage by having quicker access and availability to leading-edge HPCs; and 4) HPCs represent an important source of exports, employment, and economic growth that the United States should compete vigorously to retain.the report describes how large and small companies across a wide range of sectors—including aerospace, autos, life sciences, and manufacturing—are leveraging HPC to enable the breakthrough discoveries that fuel innovation. The report provides case studies illustrating how companies in these industries are leveraging HPC to conduct advanced modeling, simulation, and data analytics that can help address manufacturing challenges and aid in decision-making, optimize processes and design, improve quality, predict performance and failure, and accelerate or even eliminate prototyping and testing. The report emphasizes the importance of making HPC technology broadly available to America’s small- to medium-sized enterprises.

However, recognizing that both the development and use of high-performance computing are vital for countries’ economic competitiveness and innovation potential, an increasing number of countries have made significant investments and implemented holistic strategies to position themselves at the forefront of the competition for global HPC leadership. The report details how China, the European Union, Japan, and other nations have articulated national supercomputing strategies and announced significant investments in high-performance computing.

The United States currently leads in HPC adoption, deployment, and development, but its future leadership position is not guaranteed unless it makes sustained efforts and commitments to maintain a robust HPC ecosystem. As such, the report highlights the importance of bolstering America’s HPC innovation ecosystem with policy initiatives such as the National Strategic Computing Initiative (NSCI), and it makes a series of policy recommendations to ensure America maintains its advantage. In particular,

Congress should:

  • Hold hearings on the National Strategic Computing Initiative and the intensifying race for global HPC leadership;
  • Authorize and appropriate funding levels for the National Strategic Computing Initiative as requested in the Obama administration’s FY 2017 budget for FY 2017 and for future years; and
  • Reform export control regulations to match the reality of current high-performance computing systems. 

The administration, or its agencies and departments therein, should:

  • Continue to make technology transfer and commercialization activities a priority focus of America’s network of national laboratories;
  • Emphasize HPC in federal worker training and retraining programs; and
  • Emphasize HPC in relevant Manufacturing Extension Partnership engagements, helping facilitate small- to medium-sized enterprises’ access to high-performance computing.