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India Reaffirms Support For High-Performance Computing Projects

In a recent BRICS working group meeting, India reaffirmed its commitment to co-investment of resources, including funding, to support multilateral projects by BRICS member nations in high-performance computing (HPC). The meeting explored future directions of research collaboration in HPC and its weather-climate-environment applications.

Under the Science, Technology, and Innovation track, the Fifth BRICS Working Group meeting on HPCs and Information Communication Technologies (ICT) was hosted and organised online by South Africa earlier this week. Participants at the meeting discussed the application of supercomputers in drug design, artificial intelligence (AI), and HPC-based precision medicine and public health, particularly for fighting pandemics as well as geoinformatics for sustainable development.

According to a press release, all five BRICS countries: Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa, participated. More than 50 participants, including researchers, academicians, and government officials, took part in the meeting. Sanjeev Varshney, Advisor & Head, International Cooperation Division, Department of Science and Technology (DST), India emphasised the importance of this area in light of emerging technologies like AI, big data, and machine learning. He stressed their potential applications in the areas of medical sciences, agriculture, earth science modelling, and simulation. Each nation shared their country’s progress in building an HPC infrastructures network and areas of interest for advancing BRICS collaboration.

Dr Sanjay Wandhker, Senior Director from the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC), presented India’s initiative to indigenously develop supercomputers under the National Supercomputing Mission (NSM). NSM was launched to enhance the research capacities and capabilities in the country by connecting them to form a supercomputing grid, with the National Knowledge Network (NKN) as the backbone. NSM is setting up a grid of supercomputing facilities in academic and research institutions across the country. Part of this is being imported from abroad and partly built indigenously.

Dr Wandhker outlined applications in drug design to develop and deploy a user-friendly and comprehensive early warning system for flood prediction, under NSM. India will share the concept note on cooperation amongst the BRICS startups in deep technology in areas of healthcare, agriculture, and education. China proposed AI+HPC+5 G-based digital twin platforms and an open-source ecosystem for smart manufacturing, precision farming, and precision medicine. Brazil and South Africa proposed the flagship project on Digital Earth.

The working group recommendations, which have been agreed by all BRICS nations unanimously, may be included in the next BRICS Call for Proposals. The release said that the next call may likely be announced in the second half of 2021. The BRICS HPC & ICT Working Group provides a platform for researchers to discuss and deliberate on mutual interest areas to forge partnerships and develop deep technology-based solutions for societal challenges such as affordable healthcare, sustainable agriculture, extreme weather events, and climate modeling, among others.

The meeting is part of the BRICS Science, Technology, and Innovation Calendar of Activities 2020-21 adopted by all BRICS countries. India has assumed the BRICS Presidency from January 2021. About 100 events, including Ministerial level meetings, Senior Official meetings, and sectorial meetings/conferences, will be organised as part of the BRICS 2021 Calendar.

The key scientific institutions that participated in the event included DST, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), and C-DAC from India. From Brazil, the National Laboratory of Scientific Computation (LNCC) and the Senai Cimatec Research Institute. The Research Computing Centre, Moscow State University (RCC MSU) from Russia. The Guangzhou University and Sun Yat-sen University from China. From South Africa, the Department of Science and Innovation, the National Research Foundation (NRF), and the South African Weather Service.

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