Transcript: Supercomputing Asia 2024 welcome by Professor Chennupati Jagadish

February 20, 2024

I would also like to begin by acknowledging the Gadigal clan of the Eora Nation as the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we are gathering today.

The Australian Academy of Science also acknowledges and pays respects to the Traditional Owners and the Elders past, present and emerging of all the lands on which the Academy operates, and its Fellows live and work. They hold the memories, traditions, cultures and hopes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples of Australia.

The Academy is an independent organisation of distinguished Australian scientists, championing science for the benefit of all. We deliver sought-after science advice that influences Australians’ actions and contributes to global science.

Our mission is to advance Australia as a nation that embraces scientific knowledge and whose people enjoy the benefits of science, including the new knowledge and research that would not be possible without high-performance computing and data.

Supercomputers play a crucial role in enhancing the lives of everyday Australians and boosting the economy.

Weather prediction using supercomputers allows for better preparedness and response to natural disasters.

They accelerate the discovery of new drugs, directly impacting patient care and treatment options.

Supercomputers may also help improve agricultural productivity by identifying optimal locations and species for food production to accommodate changing weather patterns, leading to increased sustainability and increased profitability.

They save lives—not least by tracking the evolution of COVID-19, enabling timely and evidence-based responses to the pandemic, and providing important learnings for future pandemics.

And they power the discovery of new technologies and innovations—creating the jobs and the industries of the future for Australians.

However, Australia has no national strategy to acquire and sustain state-of-the-art, high-performance computing and data for research—putting the country’s future prosperity and security at risk.

Without substantial and strategic investment in computing, Australia’s global standing in science and technology will be significantly impacted.

We risk falling behind in technological advancements, facing economic disadvantages, and suffering a reduction in research capabilities, including those that can help inform decision making.

Lack of investment could lead to a brain drain, national security vulnerabilities, missed international collaborations and stagnation in innovation across various sectors, including healthcare and education.

Late last year the Academy brought together a roundtable of multidisciplinary experts from fields including genomics, computational medicine, climate science, artificial intelligence and quantum physics to consider Australia’s future supercomputing needs for science.

Experts at the roundtable identified that developing a national strategy backed by at least one research exascale capability would secure Australia’s sovereign research capability and enable science to meet national and regional priorities into the future. 

They also discussed Australia’s opportunity to position itself to host a next-generation computing facility for research that could be shared with regional partners—advancing science for the region and building a skilled workforce in Australia.

Today, the Academy has released the first in a series of briefs resulting from this roundtable discussion.

A problem facing Australia is that the next generation of computing requires funding that far exceeds the cost of our existing national research computing facilities—and the total National Research Infrastructure budget.

Australia, like other leading nations, needs to urgently consider future investment in high-performance computing and data to remain competitive and provide services and benefits to all Australians.

However, due to our economy’s size, reaching advanced, exascale capabilities will require a well-thought-out national strategy and may require a regional approach that includes co-investment from regional partners or collaboration with commercial partners.

Australia has a substantial interest in the prosperity of the countries in our region.

Few countries in the region have the financial and technical capacity to invest in near-exascale and exascale high-performance computing and data capabilities.

But having access to these capabilities will soon not just be a nice-to-have, but a necessity for scientists throughout the region—including to study the changing climate and impacts it is having on countries and their people.

Today’s publication is a brief for policymakers titled ‘The future computing needs of the Australian science sector’.

It is now available on our website.

I am excited to be here today and hear from many researchers about how high-performance computing is accelerating your research and hope that the discussions held here this week are productive and bring great benefits to your work.

Thank you.

© 2024 Australian Academy of Science