20th anniversary: agreement for the creation of the first MareNostrum signed

11 March 2024

The Spanish Government and IBM signed the contract for the acquisition of the initial version of the supercomputer in 2004 at the Moncloa Palace, a year before the Barcelona Supercomputing Center was founded

On 10 March 2004, the Spanish Government and IBM signed the agreement for the development of the first version of the MareNostrum supercomputer at the Moncloa Palace. This alliance marked Spain's entry into the field of high-performance computing and laid the foundations for the creation of the Barcelona Supercomputing Center - Centro Nacional de Supercomputación (BSC-CNS), which was formalised a year later.

In the 20 years that have passed since the signing of that agreement, the BSC has grown from an emerging institution made up of a few dozen workers to become the largest supercomputing centre in Europe, with a staff that is expected to exceed a thousand people this March.

It all started at the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC), with the creation in 1985 of a new computing research centre that would use parallel computers. It was the seed of the European Centre for Parallelism Barcelona (CEPBA), which would lay the foundations of the BSC, which became a reality in 2005 thanks to the collaboration of administrations, in the form of a consortium, between the Spanish Government, the Generalitat de Catalunya and the UPC.

A year earlier, in 2004, the Spanish government and IBM reached an agreement for the acquisition of MareNostrum 1, which, that same year, would be recognised as the fourth most powerful supercomputer in the world according to the Linpack ranking.

The first MareNostrum was installed in the emblematic deconsecrated chapel of the Torre Girona, which also housed the successive versions of the supercomputer until the arrival, in 2023, of MareNostrum 5, which, due to its extraordinary dimensions, had to be located in the basement of the new BSC headquarters, inaugurated two years earlier. In these five versions, the machine has increased its computing capacity by a factor of 10,000 and has evolved to become one of the most versatile supercomputers on the planet thanks to its heterogeneous architecture, specially designed to extend the frontiers of knowledge.

Knowledge transfer to society

Around the computational power of the MareNostrum, the BSC has also evolved to consolidate itself as one of the leading research centres in Spain and Europe, always with the aim of giving back to society, through the transfer of technology and knowledge, all that society has contributed to it. This is demonstrated by the almost 400 technologies created, including patents (57), software (252), hardwares (25), methodologies (17) and datasets (47), in addition to the 41 bilateral collaborations with private sector companies.

The BSC has also given rise to some of the most innovative start-ups on the Spanish technology scene, with twelve spinoffs created over the last two decades in fields as diverse as the creation of digital replicas of human organs, the use of ultrasound to detect breast cancer, the implementation of real-time safety systems for aviation and the automotive industry, the development of solutions to manage the impact of volcanic risks and the design of open-source processors.

These BSC spin-offs have been able to generate 180 new skilled jobs, raise investments totalling more than €25 million and transfer 36 new technologies designed to solve societal problems and improve the lives of citizens.