Removing barriers to HPC adoption for SMEs

SHAPE (SME HPC Adoption Programme in Europe) is a pan-European initiative supported by PRACE (Partnership for Advanced Computing in Europe). The Programme aims to raise awareness and provide European SMEs with the expertise necessary to take advantage of the innovation possibilities created by high-performance computing (HPC), thus increasing their competitiveness. SHAPE allows SMEs to benefit from the expertise and knowledge developed within the top-class PRACE Research Infrastructure.

It can be challenging for SMEs to adopt HPC. They may have no in-house expertise, no access to hardware, or be unable to commit resources to a potentially risky endeavour. This is where SHAPE comes in, by making it easier for SMEs to make use of high-performance computing in their business — be it to improve product quality, reduce time to delivery or provide innovative new services to their customers.

Successful applicants to the SHAPE programme get effort from a PRACE HPC expert and access to machine time at a PRACE centre. In collaboration with the SME, the PRACE partner helps them try out their ideas for utilising HPC to enhance their business. So far, SHAPE has assisted over 20 SMEs (see the SHAPE website for examples), and the 3rd call for applications has just closed, so there are more companies in the pipeline who will benefit from this enabling programme.

SHAPE will continue in the next phase of PRACE, and the plan is to have six-monthly calls, giving ample opportunity for SMEs to investigate what HPC can do for their business. The next call opens in June 2016.

To find out more about the project, see the SHAPE website or contact the SHAPE team at

Case study 1. Albatern: producing power from waves

Albatern’s wave power generation product consists of buoyant Squid modules which have three arms and are capable of linking with up-to three other Squids. The Squid modules and their link-arms contain mechanisms to generate power, capturing the heave and surge motion of the waves via hydraulics. In this way, Albatern, an innovative Scottish SME of 15 engineers has developed a highly scalable, modular wave power generator. Albatern’s project supported by SHAPE marked the start of the development of a physics code capable of simulating and predicting the power of a large scale Wavenet array (100 or more devices).

Wave energy prototypes are large, expensive and funded through risk capital. As a result prototype simulation also forms an essential part of the device design process. To progress beyond the limitations of current, commercially available software, it was proposed to construct a new, modular solver capable of capturing the behaviour of large scale Wavenet arrays. Through their SHAPE Project Albatern has prototyped with the support of PRACE experts a parallel multibody dynamics solver, using the PETSc open source numerical library and scaled out on ARCHER, the CRAY XC30 at EPCC.

Dr William Edwards, Albatern:

“Simulations demonstrating the potential cost and performance improvements gained through deploying extremely large, coupled wave energy arrays will be a breakthrough for the industry. The PRACE project has helped Albatern develop in-house software that will directly aid expanding the scope of their simulation capability.
“Albatern is now in a position to write a multibody dynamics code that will share common parts of the simulation procedure, allowing interchange of either the simultaneous or sequential methods.”
Albatern’s WaveNET 6S Array off the Isle of Muck, Scotland.

Case study 2. NEXIO: Amping up electromagnetic modelling

NEXIO SIMULATION is a French SME and subsidiary of Nexio Group, it develops electromagnetic simulation software called CAPITOLE-EM to study the electromagnetic behaviour of any product during the design process, before the manufacturing phase. After a first step performed locally in France using the HPC-PME initiative, their PRACE SHAPE Project has enabled them, via access to HPC resources and expertise in HPC and numerical simulation, to jump from a personal computer version of this software to an HPC version.

Electromagnetic simulation is more frequently used these days, due to the increase of communicating devices such as mobile phones, modems, etc. Studying the effects of interferences between pieces of equipment becomes essential for large industrial companies in aeronautics, space, automotive, etc. to improve the performances of the transmitting and receiving systems or antennas.

NEXIO SIMULATION proposes solutions for electromagnetic simulation problems with larger frequencies and model dimensions that lead to linear systems with millions of unknowns: one of the biggest challenges that researchers in this field encounter. Such solutions call for special numerical techniques which are able to highly reduce the numerical effort and complexity of the solution as well as the necessary used memory.

Pascal de Resseguier, NEXIO SIMULATION:

“These techniques are usually based both in physical and mathematical properties. However, there is a certain point where these methods are not enough and we need to add some more gain. There it enters the era of parallelization and HPC systems. Parallel codes can extremely reduce computational times if they have a good scalability with the number of cores. Getting to an efficient and optimized parallel code requires some expertise and resources which are hard to reach for a SME.
“We expect that half of the future sales of CAPITOLE-EM will come from the HPC version developed through this SHAPE Project.”





Paul Graham, SHAPE coordinator and Software Architect at EPCC

Originally published at on April 13, 2016.

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