Changing the World for Jake and Sophie (aged 3 & ½ and 5)

I need to tell you a story of two children, Jake he’s three and very importantly a half, and Sophie, she’s an even more important 5, and Sophie constantly reminders her little brother of this. These two little children live in the near future, a future where people live longer, cancer survival rates are 75 x better than they are today. The environment is better, the city they live in has less pollution than we have today, and the food is healthier, grown with less chemicals, and cheaper. But most importantly to Jake and Sophie, and perhaps to their mum and dad, is that they get to spent more time together as family.

Great futures don’t just happen, they are made

Great futures don’t just happen, they are made. With hard work, the future and the world can be changed for the better. This future, the one in which Jake and Sophie live, is one that the EU via its science research and policy setting is trying to create.

I had the chance to attend a ICHEC, Irish Centre for High End Computing event in Dublin with Roberto Viola, head of the EU’s DG Connect – which sets policy for IT research. Researchers from across Europe and the UK attended. This event showcased the impact big high performance computing can have on medical, agricultural, and weather research.

It highlighted how new forms of transport, powered by computing, like self driving cars, can have a huge impact on the local air quality, and indeed the reduction in traffic jams. How personalised medicine can dramatically help in treating conditions like cancer, and technology on the farm can improve crop yields, chemical use, and reduce costs. However all of this requires big, high performance computers. In fact it needs a brand new type of high performance computer — an “Exoscale Computer”. These computers are expensive, in fact the only countries in the world capable of making them at the moment are the USA, China, and Japan.

that no single EU member state can afford to do it on their own

The EU estimates that to create this future, Europe will need 3 to 4 of these large Exoscale Super computers, and that researchers from across the EU will need access to them. € 5.6 billion is needed to build these machines and make them available to all. That’s a lot of money. So much so, that no single EU member state can afford to do it on their own. We heard during the event that Germany had tried, but it simply wasn’t possible.

The only way to create this new future for Sophie and her little brother, Jake is to work together, all of us.

The only way to create this new future for Sophie and her little brother, Jake is to work together, all of us. This is what the EU is about, creating a better future for everyone, and that is exactly what EU research is about; trying one small step at a time, to change the world and create a better future.

But it is this very future that the UK in the referendum decided to leave behind. We all want a better future, but the truth is the really big changes, the huge advances only happen via hard work and a lot of cooperation and support. A single European nation, cannot do it on their own. It is not that the UK might still be able to participate in research, it is the fact that the very idea of cooperation across Europe on such a level would not exist without the EU. That’s why it is important that the UK remains in the EU.

Would you want to throw away Jake and Sophie’s future?

A lot of people think that being a researcher is about white coats and crazy hair, while I’ve had my share of both, it’s not really like that. It’s about finding out what works, and what doesn’t, and changing your mind when you discover new information. Being able to change your mind is important. Christmas is a great time of reflection, and to spend time with our loved ones. What type of future would you like for them? How would you like to make that future, alone, on your own, or together with friends in a much bigger community?

When at night, I get home from work late, I pop my head around the bedroom door and I check on my two little boys. Lost in the blissful repose of innocence sleep, and I quietly pray that their future will be as bright, if not brighter than the one Jake and Sophie enjoy.

The future really is #brighterin the EU.

Image used under creative commons. Credit to Clappstar from Flikr.