The Emilia-Romagna Regional Authority is the body that manages and promotes projects and initiatives related to the development and enhancement of the region. Starting from 2020, the Region has entrusted SITE with the management of the works for the realisation of the ECMWF Data Centre, with the aim of redeveloping in Via Stalingrado, the Botti area, a part of the industrial heritage of the former Manifattura Tabacchi. We are talking about the development of a project of international importance aimed at further enhancing the prestige of the city and hosting the very best in scientific research, innovation and technology. Thanks to regional, European and national investments, the future Bologna Technopole Hub is in fact destined to become an international reference point for the digital economy, research and innovation, Big Data, climate change and supercomputing.
The first challenge faced by SITE for the realisation of the new ECMWF Data Centre headquarters was first of all that of having to redevelop a building designed in the 1950s by the great engineer Pier Luigi Nervi, safeguarding his work and his modern architecture, but reinterpreting the spaces in order to make them avant-garde and adapting them to the new needs of the ECMWF centre (European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts): creating a technological infrastructure able to host one of the most powerful supercomputers in the world. The Bologna Technopole will therefore become the new home of the European Weather Centre’s data centre and will open its doors to the latest supercomputing technologies in pursuit of its strategic objectives, starting with improved temperature and wind forecasts, and more frequent – from twice-weekly to daily – long-term forecasts, also with a view to preventing extreme weather events. In addition to being the technological heart of the European Weather Centre, the Bologna Technopole will be the home of the Leonardo supercomputer, part of the European high-performance computing network that will process data from the most important national scientific institutions, from the Italian Weather Agency to the National Institute of Astrophysics (INAF).
The area destined for the weather centre was renovated under the guidance of SITE, over a period of about two years, despite the delays and difficulties encountered with the pandemic. At the same time, SITE was also responsible for the electrical installations and the power centre. The new hub combines the history linked to its famous architect and innovation, seeking the right balance between the structural and plant engineering parts to ensure the safety and proper functioning of the building.
The following activities were carried out within the Technopole, in brief
- Redevelopment of an area of 9,000 m2
- Installation of 10 MW of electrical power
- Transformation of a complex of historical buildings from the 1950s into a modern structure with the highest seismic resistance class (level IV)
- Construction of 2 Data Halls of 1,000 m2 each and 2 Data Storage rooms of 500 m2 each
- Installation of huge machines that make up the two High Performance Computing (HPC) of the Data Centre set to become operational in mid 2022 and provide weather forecasts to over 30 nations, constituting the largest data archive in the world.
The realisation of this major work was possible thanks to the teamwork, commitment and professionalism of over 750 people. With this infrastructure and the completion of the Bologna Technopole project, Italy will gain a leading position and absolute excellence in the field of big data and computing capacity. This position will change the geopolitics of global supercomputing and the importance of the Emilia-Romagna Data Valley, since it will concentrate more than 80% of national and 20% of European computing power, an event that will enable Italy to compete with the most advanced areas in Europe and the world.