2021-10-01

Three project proposals to enter funding negotiations

The decision on new NeIC projects to enter funding negotiations has been taken by the NeIC Board. Out of the 11 excellent project proposals that were submitted, three were considered the most feasible, most relevant and beneficial for the Nordic region and most aligned with the NeIC strategy. These three projects are the sustainability phase of CodeRefinery, the second phase of Puhuri and a new project called Nordic-Estonian Quantum Computing e-Infrastructure Quest, in short NordiQuEst.

How we review proposals

The NeIC Open call for development projects is our key instrument for enabling Nordic research excellence through e-infrastructure collaboration. In conjunction with the call for development projects, we also encourage Nordic research groups to submit proposals for community-forming pre-studies and workshops. The 2021 Open call was launched on 14 January with a deadline on 10 March. The funding decision on pre-studies was taken by the NeIC Director in May 2021, and the funding decision on projects in the September meeting of the NeIC Board.

The NeIC process for project selection is time-intensive and careful. The 11 project proposals were reviewed first by external domain experts picked out for each proposal separately, then by a panel consisting of six external e-infrastructure specialists. The national e-infrastructure provider institutions in the six NeIC countries were asked for an assessment of the proposals’ relevance to national strategies. The Nordic Added Value and alignment with the NeIC strategy of each proposal was assessed internally within NeIC. Finally, the Director presented to the Board a funding proposal that was based on all the reviews. The Board’s decision was to approve the Director’s proposal and start funding negotiations with three projects: CodeRefinery (sustainability phase), Puhuri2 and NordiQuEst.

In 2021, there were more than twice the amount of proposals submitted than in 2020. With so many proposals received, the selection process took longer than expected and the decision could not be made in the Board’s June meeting.

Exploring a new territory with NordiQuEst

One of the projects to enter negotiations is a proposal by a new consortium consisting of seven partners from five countries: Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Norway and Sweden. NordiQuEst will work to introduce a Nordic quantum computing ecosystem by establishing a quantum computing platform customised to the needs of the Nordic region, with access to several Nordic quantum computers and quantum computer simulators. By focusing on collaboration as well as pooling resources and expertise, the project wants the Nordics to grab the opportunity and join the international quantum race.

In the coming years, quantum computing is expected to have a huge impact on practically all areas of research that can utilise computational modelling. The NordiQuEst project proposal states that quantum computers can dramatically increase the impact of research by enabling solutions to problems that conventional computing will continue to struggle with. Some of the most pressing societal challenges, such as climate change, can be tackled more efficiently than before. In the Nordics, there is plenty of evidence of cross-border collaboration being the key to producing something outstanding, which is why NordiQuEst emphasizes joining forces and sharing expertise. The collaboration on establishing a quantum computing infrastructure is seen as crucial for the Nordic region to be able to take the quantum leap and to renew the Nordic research and development sector.

The proposal is for a three-year project to begin in early 2022.

Next phases of Puhuri and CodeRefinery

In 2020, NeIC launched a project called Puhuri to work on providing seamless access to the LUMI supercomputer and other resources used by the NeIC projects and its partners. The Puhuri project consortium applied for funding for a second phase of the project in the 2021 Open call, and they were chosen to enter negotiations.

The work done in Puhuri benefits not only all NeIC countries but the entire Nordic region, and the project has also raised interest outside of the Nordics. The goals of Puhuri2 are to ensure sustainability of the Puhuri authentication and authorisation infrastructure (AAI) and increase adoption of the services developed during phase 1 of the project. The project will also aim to improve functionalities of the Puhuri system.

The CodeRefinery project has been running for five years, with the second phase of the project ending on 31 October 2021. The project has been hugely successful in their goal to advance software development and management practices: during 2020 alone, in total 650 students, researchers, and research software engineers participated in their training events. CodeRefinery’s contribution to FAIR practices and open science has been remarkable, and the sustainability phase will help ensure the long-lasting effects, sustain the material and further strengthen the community.

Both of the proposals are for three-year projects, Puhuri2 to begin in June 2022 and CodeRefinery already in November 2021.