Japan’s Fugaku supercomputer — which in June ranked first in the global Top500 list of such machines, the first time for a Japanese machine in about nine years — was surprisingly not created with the aim of excelling in numerical benchmarks, unlike some of its rivals.

Instead, it was born with an “application-first philosophy,” meaning that its exclusive purpose is to dedicate its computational excellence to tackling some of the world’s biggest challenges, such as climate change, says Satoshi Matsuoka, 57, the mastermind behind the project.

“Benchmark excellence is not our priority,” he said in an interview conducted in near flawless English. Instead, he said, its success is assessed “based on how much we can accelerate the applications that are important in society.”