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Update on planning for high-performance computing center

Consortium members report 'considerable progress' in several aspects of project in Holyoke, Mass.

Following is a joint statement by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Massachusetts, Boston University and Northeastern University on planning for a green, high-performance computing center (GHPCC) in Holyoke, Mass.

Back in November of last year, the consortium pledged a commitment to work diligently for the next 120 days with the Governor and other cabinet officials, Congressman Olver, Holyoke officials and our colleagues in industry, notably EMC Corp. and Cisco Systems, to move to the next stage of planning the HPCC. Today, we report on the considerable progress made concerning academic, organizational and capital elements of the project.

The consortium is pleased to announce that another of the state’s leading research universities — Northeastern University — has indicated its full intention to join the HPCC consortium and commit a $10 million contribution to the GHPCC facility. Meanwhile, we continue to have discussions with other potential partners and other users about the GHPCC. With Northeastern’s commitment added to that of the original three partners, the universities are committing $40 million to building the GHPCC facility. Combined with the estimated $65 million of equipment that will be located in the facility, the universities are now committed to investing over $100 million in Holyoke.

On an organizational front, the planning of a 501(c)(3) entity which will operate the GHPCC facility on behalf of the consortium is nearly complete. In addition, the search process for the executive director of the not-for-profit entity has begun along with the creation of a blueprint for an external advisory board, through which others in government, industry and academia in the region will have the opportunity to connect with the GHPCC.

We have started planning for a joint R&D, education and outreach program, including an April 15 workshop, in partnership with Holyoke Community College (HCC) and Springfield Technical Community College (STCC), on educational opportunities associated with a green HPCC; and an RFP for collaborative research projects focused on developing processes and metrics for “green” high performance scientific computing.

Also, preparation is underway, in partnership with HCC and STCC, of a proposal requesting funding from the National Science Foundation for a new program on cyber infrastructure training, education, advancement, and mentoring for the 21st Century workforce.

We are also happy to report that after working closely with The Westmass Area Development Corporation, an affiliate of the Economic Development Council of Western Massachusetts, the consortium has narrowed the field of candidate sites down to two, both of which are in the Holyoke Innovation District. Due diligence on both sites is being conducted and the consortium expects to be able to announce site selection in the summer. In addition, the consortium has identified a number of qualified design and engineering firms, with plans to issue an RFP for this work in April and make the final selection of a design and engineering firm in May.

The consortium is especially appreciative of Governor Patrick's commitment to invest up to $25 million of state funds to support the development of the GHPCC facility. This represents a strategic investment in the state’s Innovation Economy, which will have long-term benefits for Holyoke, the home communities of the HPCC consortium members and those of our other industry and academic partners, and the Commonwealth as a whole. While the $25 million investment in the facility does not entirely close the funding gap, we are confident of our ability to get the project done with this level of state support. All the university partners look forward to engaging with state officials, our industry partners EMC and Cisco, along with others in the coming weeks to secure the necessary agreements to bring this project to fruition. It remains our shared objective to begin the development work in fall of 2010.

The establishment of the GHPCC would represent the most significant economic development partnership among state government, leading research universities and private industry in the history of the Commonwealth. It will provide a vital piece of infrastructure for our scientists and researchers, act as a hub that will facilitate collaboration in R&D and education among our higher education institutions, and serve as a catalyst for technology-based economic development.

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