Thursday, 2 May 2013

Questions (89, 90, 91)

Kevin Humphreys

Question:

89. Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Education and Skills when will the report on the review of the feasibility and options for a national high performance computing service will be published which was undertaken under a steering group with representatives from the HEA, his Department, SFI and the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20963/13]

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Kevin Humphreys

Question:

90. Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide a breakdown of the financial contribution from his Department and the HEA towards the provision of a national high performance computing service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20964/13]

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Kevin Humphreys

Question:

91. Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Education and Skills when was the decision made to award the national high performance computing service to (details supplied); if he will indicate the way in which that decision was made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20965/13]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 89 to 91, inclusive, together.

Since 2005 the main, though not exclusive, HPC provision in Ireland has been through the Irish Centre for High End Computing (ICHEC) which is hosted by NUI Galway. Other universities, also possess HPC facilities. Since its establishment in 2005 ICHEC has primarily received funding supports from Science Foundation Ireland and the Higher Education Authority.

During 2012 a small steering group comprising senior officials from my Department, the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, the Higher Education Authority (HEA) and Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) was established to assess a number of issues regarding Ireland's high performance computing (HPC) service provision needs. As part of this group's work and following a tendering process in spring 2012, a report was commissioned from MacDougall Consulting, UK to examine a number of relevant issues regarding HPC services and demand in Ireland. The consultant undertook a series of meetings with a range of stakeholders, including higher education institutions, relevant Government Departments and Agencies, and key industry personnel and presented a report to the Steering Group in October, 2012. The consultant's report was prepared to assist the Steering Group in its internal deliberations rather than publication per se.

Following consideration of the report, my Department and the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation agreed that they would jointly provide core funding to the Irish Centre for High-End Computing (ICHEC) to enable it to continue to provide a strategically important high performance computing service nationally. The Departments also decided that ICHEC would continue to be hosted by NUI Galway.

The joint-funding from both Departments will amount to €1.4m annually over the period 2013 to 2015, with €0.7m coming from my Department. The annual funding provision to ICHEC is subject to a range of conditions and targets involving the provision of a detailed annual business plan; ensuring best practice corporate governance arrangements; demonstrable alignment with national strategies and actions such as the Action Plan for Jobs and a national e-Infrastructure policy. ICHEC will also be subject to independent review over the period to 2015 and will be expected to leverage additional funding from industry, the EU or through national competitive research funding calls. In this regard, I understand that ICHEC was recently successful with a bid for supercomputing equipment in the 2012 SFI Infrastructure Call.

Question No. 92 answered with Question No. 87.