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Fugaku Wins Again: Gordon Bell Special Prize for COVID-19 Research goes to Japanese Team

The Supercomputer is recognized again as a RIKEN, Kobe University and Tokyo Institute of Technology team wins for its aerosol infection risk assessment in the fight against COVId-19.

JAPAN Forward



The Fugaku supercomputer.



The supercomputer from Japan Fugaku shines yet again on the world stage, receiving the 2021 ACM Gordon Bell Special Prize for High Performance Computing-Based COVID-19 Research.

The award presented by the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) is considered to be the equivalent for the Nobel Prize in Computing, and is prestigious recognition in the field.

The team of six people received the award for their research in the “Digital transformation of droplet/aerosol infection risk assessment realized on “Fugaku” for the fight against COVID-19.”

The organizers of the ACM Gordon Bell prize presented the award for outstanding research of high-performance computing in the fight of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021. In 2020, the first year the award was given, it recognized AI technology in the fight against the pandemic.

The winning team members in 2021 are: Kazuto Ando, Rahul Bale, and Kenji Onishi, RIKEN Center for Computational Science (Japan); ChungGang Li and Makoto Tsubokura, RIKEN Center for Computational Science and Kobe University (Japan); and Satoshi Matsuoka, RIKEN Center. for Computational Science and Tokyo Institute of Technology.

The supercomputer was pushed into operation ahead of schedule in April 2020, as the global COVID-19 pandemic enveloped the world. Simulations carried out using Fugaku were then made available to scientists to combat the epidemic. 

The research of the winning team is built on industrial particle modelling software. The Japanese research team employed Fugaku to run a variety of simulations on how COVID-19 might spread from person to person via aerosolized droplets.

The winning team developed a novel aerosol simulation methodology, which, in plain terms, simulated life settings such as people gathering in or passing through public areas, classrooms, concert halls, and dining rooms, and were instrumental in understanding how droplets would move in the space.

Fugaku ran simulations of droplets from a cough or sitting in a restaurant, guiding COVID-19 mitigation measures
Fugaku’s simulation of the spread of droplets from person to person
MOFA sponsored

These simulations were then used to develop risk assessment and countermeasure strategies that were disseminated to the general public, government agencies, and private businesses. 

The team’s research on Fugaku was instrumental in guiding policy, including the value of using face masks – at a time when universal mask wearing was still being debated as an effective measure. It also helped guide policymakers in establishing social distancing guidelines and determining how to manage closures or restrictions at eating and drinking establishments as well as large public facilities and private businesses.

The award ceremony took place on November 18, 2021, during the  International Conference for High Performance Computing, Networking, Storage, and Analysis (SC21). The Gordon Bell Prize is accompanied by a cash prize of $10,000 USD.


Author: JAPAN Forward