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Towards a European GPU

Loïc Hamon & Jonathan Nussbaumer
20 May 2024

Discover why a European GPU is so important, and how Europe can collaborate to make it happen.

What do these three very different technologies all have in common – generative AI, 6G mobile networks, and autonomous vehicles? Clearly they are all exciting, but they also all rely on the science – and the magic – of advanced processors. GPUs (Graphics Processing Units) are a member of this family; a family which boasts sophisticated architectures and exceptional miniaturization, enabling high performance for massive data processing while balancing size, speed, and energy efficiency. But are we in danger of taking this incredible technology for granted?

The journey of GPUs from the 1990s to today is a tale of innovation and competition. Initially designed to enhance gaming 3D graphics, GPUs have transcended their original purpose. Thanks to their powerful parallel processing abilities, they now play a pivotal role in artificial intelligence and deep learning. Today, GPUs have transformed from specialized gaming hardware to indispensable tools that enable cutting-edge technology and underpin critical day-to-day services.

Europe’s position and challenges

Despite the critical role of GPUs, Europe finds itself behind in the manufacture of these essential processors.

High costs of cutting-edge semiconductor manufacturing technology limit GPU production to just three global players, and Intel is the only one considering production in Europe by the end of the decade. However, the design of GPUs is as crucial as their production and offers a way for Europe to regain some sovereignty in the market. Once the design of a processor (its system architecture and key intellectual property blocks) is mastered, it is technically possible to have it produced anywhere. In terms of sovereignty, this offers freedom. That’s why Europe must design its own advanced processors, even if it must depend – and it has no choice in the short term – on non-European manufacturers.

Recognizing this, global tech giants and countries around the world are investing heavily to quickly design alternatives and take back control. Yet Europe is not currently part of this effort and until it enters the fray, the gap with the rest of the world will continue to widen.

Envisioning a European GPU

Designing a European GPU is therefore a strategic necessity. The European industrial fabric (health, defense, aeronautics, automotive, telecoms, data centers) cannot depend on a single source of supply – especially one outside the region. But it is a challenge that requires significant investment estimated at several billion euros over several years. This is not just to catch up, but to ensure a diverse supply chain for critical technology.

The focus of this investment is not only on creating a GPU, but on developing a complete advanced processor with a heterogeneous architecture combining different functionalities for efficiency (though the modular ‘chiplet’ approach also offers interesting possibilities). Progress has already started across Europe. France, Germany and the Nordics have already taken steps towards this goal, benefiting from collaborations with global tech firms like Thales, and smaller specialists such as Kalray, SiPearl, VSora, GreenYellow, Menta, Scalinx, GrAI Matter Labs, and many other leading lights in the world of CPU and accelerator technologies. Capgemini, following the acquisitions of Altran and HDL, is now Europe’s leading silicon engineering services company and can drive this project forward. Leading forces across the continent have never been brought together for a common sector project like this. Combined, they give Europe the foundational elements that, if properly assembled, could constitute the embryo of a sovereign advanced processor, potentially rivalling non-European tech giants in the long term.

A unified industrial vision

The realization of a European GPU hinges on aligning European stakeholders around a common industrial vision. This involves a coordinated effort to define a unique architecture, development roadmap, software environment and ecosystem, and market strategy, supported by both the state and private sector investment.

A rapid task force could kickstart this initiative, outlining a political and industrial framework within three months. This would catalyse collaboration among industrial clients and technology providers, addressing Europe’s pressing needs for digital sovereignty and technological independence.

In summary, developing a European GPU is not merely a technological endeavor but a strategic move towards securing Europe’s position in the global tech landscape, paving the way for technological sovereignty and innovation. This will ensure Europe can continue to enjoy the current and next wave of exceptional technologies that have the ability to change the world in which we live and work.

Meet our experts

Loïc Hamon

CMO for Silicon Engineering at Capgemini Engineering
Loïc Hamon is currently the CMO of Silicon Engineering at Capgemini. He orchestrates initiatives to maximize market impact and drive growth. This includes strategic positioning, offering articulation, ecosystem development, and business expansion.

    Jonathan Nussbaumer

    Vice-President and Global Head of Silicon Engineering
    A silicon enthusiast, passionate about unlocking the power of chips in Intelligent Industry, Jonathan is obsessed with building sovereignty for all industries. He leads Capgemini’s silicon engineering journey.

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