The decision was taken on 22 June at the end of a two-day session of Council, the Centre’s governing body, which includes representatives of all its Member States. The Italian proposal to host the Centre’s data centre had been evaluated as part of an international competition and was judged at the beginning of the year to best meet ECMWF’s requirements. Member States then tasked Director-General Florence Rabier with entering into discussions with the Italian Government with a view to having a high-level agreement ready for this session of Council.
After discussions and votes, representatives of ECMWF’s Member States were satisfied with the high-level agreement proposed by Italy and approved Bologna as the host city for ECMWF’s new data centre. The building is to be delivered to ECMWF by 2019 and will host the Centre’s new supercomputers, whilst the Centre’s headquarters are to remain in the UK.
The Head of the Italian National Meteorological Service, Col. Silvio Cau, and ECMWF Director-General Florence Rabier (seated) signed the high-level agreement on the data centre in the presence of representatives from all 22 ECMWF Member States.
Dr Rabier commented: “I am delighted that our Council has decided to support the proposal by Italy to host ECMWF’s new data centre. This new facility will allow us to upgrade our high-performance computing capability to the levels required to continue to advance weather science. The decision-making process has been long, thorough and at times difficult, and we have already incurred some delays which could have an impact on our computing capability within the next couple of years. We are extremely grateful to all our Member States, who have taken great care to ensure that ECMWF’s best interests would prevail. Of course I want to especially thank the Italian authorities, who have worked tirelessly to ensure that their proposal meets all the required criteria. Having our headquarters in the UK and our data centre in Italy will be a new experience which will illustrate perfectly well the truly intergovernmental nature of ECMWF.”
The President of Council, Professor Miguel Miranda, added: “Weather forecasts in each of the Member States, and indeed far beyond, rely on ECMWF continuing to produce and deliver the best numerical prediction in the world. Today’s decision will enable the Centre to start planning in earnest for the procurement of its next supercomputing system. On behalf of our Council of Member States, I want to join the Director-General in expressing our gratitude to all Member States, who have participated actively in this process. The new Data Centre will be located in Italy, with significant support from the government and the Emilia Romagna region. There is still a lot to do to ensure that the premises will be fit for purpose in two years’ time, and we cannot but be impressed by the enthusiasm and the ardour the Italian team has put into this project so far. ECMWF is an example of European nations pooling their resources to achieve the best possible outcome. ECMWF was created 40 years ago and there are major challenges ahead in today’s world marked by a changing climate.”
“This result – said the Italian Minister of Environment Gian Luca Galletti – is a great success for Italy. The new data centre in Bologna will allow ECMWF to continue its important work in studying weather phenomena as a strategic element for sustainable economic progress and citizen security. Now Bologna is at the centre of the global environmental challenges. This will further enhance the skills, the ability to innovate, the attractive pole of environmental data which are the heritage of the city. This is the result – said Galletti – of impressive teamwork of many Italian institutions, such as the Ministries of Environment, Education, Defence, Foreign Affairs, Economy and Finance, the Emilia Romagna Region with President Stefano Bonaccini, the municipality of Bologna with Major Virginio Merola, and the Alma Mater University with rector Francesco Ubertini. I want to thank Director-General Rabier and President Miranda of ECMWF, together with all Member States: this is a responsibility that Bologna will surely honour.”
ECMWF’s ten-year Strategy adopted in 2016 sets ambitious goals for Earth system modelling at high resolution. It specifies a target of a 5 km grid spacing for ensemble forecasts by 2025, down from 18 km today. An intermediate step will be the implementation of a 9 km ensemble in 2020–2021. These resolution upgrades will require a new high-performance computing facility with approximately ten times as much computational capacity as is currently available to ECMWF, some of which will come from more processors. The new facility in Bologna will give us the flexibility to accommodate the latest technologies in supercomputing.
The Council Resolution on the location of the new ECMWF data centre