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DIGIBYTE | 17 May 2016

European Commission will launch €1 billion quantum technologies flagship

Günther H. Oettinger, Commissioner for the Digital Economy and Society outlined the Commission’s plan to launch a €1 billion flagship initiative on quantum technology.

Quantum Technologies

Speaking at the Quantum Europe Conference organised by The Dutch presidency of the EU, the European Commission and the QuTech center in Delft, the Commissioner outlined his objective to reinforce European scientific leadership and excellence in quantum research and in quantum technologies.

Representatives of academia and industry presented the Quantum Manifesto to Commissioner Oettinger and to the Dutch Minister of Economic Affairs Henk Kamp. One point they made clear was that quantum secure communication and computing will be a key part of future computing infrastructure. The quantum flagship will be a key part of the data and computing Infrastructure which underpins the European Cloud Initiative, as part of the Commission's strategy to digitise European industry.

The European Commission is preparing the ground for the launch in 2018 of a €1 billion flagship initiative on quantum technologies, which can put Europe at the forefront of the second quantum revolution, bringing transformative advances to science, industry and society. The flagship initiative is expected to turn Europe’s excellent research results in areas like quantum secure communication, quantum sensing and quantum simulation and computing into concrete technological opportunities that can be taken up by industry.

The second quantum revolution

Quantum theory  - which was developed in the early 1900s by Plank, Bohr, Feynman and Einstein -  has fundamentally changed our understanding of how light and matter behave at extremely small scales. Our ability to manipulate quantum effects in customised systems and materials is now paving the way for a second quantum revolution, which takes quantum theory to its technological consequences. It should lead to devices with far superior performance and capabilities for sensing, measuring and imaging; for communication, simulation and computing. Quantum technologies ultimately are expected to open new opportunities to address grand challenges in such fields as energy, health, security and the environment.  Some are already starting to be commercially exploited. Others may still require years of careful research and development. Yet others we cannot even imagine today.

The future markets for quantum technologies are going to be at least as significant as current ICT markets. For example, already in 2020, Quantum Communication could serve a market sized over €1 billion, with a steep estimated growth rate of 20 percent per year. Near-term technologies could be available within 5 years, notably for sensing, metrology, imaging and communication. Otherwise the anticipated time frame is 10 to 15 years and beyond.

Quantum manifesto

Following a series of dialogues initiated by the European Commission with industry and other stakeholders, a “Quantum Manifesto” has been published with the support of more than 3000 representatives from academia, industry and governmental and funding institutions. The roadmap calls for an ambitious strategy to set the bases of a world-class quantum industry in Europe that will unlock the full potential of quantum technologies and bring commercial products to public and private markets, combining education, science, engineering and entrepreneurship.  More information on the Quantum Manifesto, its goals and proposals, are available in the press release of the Dutch Presidency  and the blogpost  co-signed by Prof dr Tommaso Calarco, Director of the Centre for Integrated Quantum Science and Technology in Ulm and Michael Bolle, President of Corporate Research and Development, Robert Bosch GmbH.

Quantum flagship

The €1 billion initiative announced by the European Commission will provide this ambitious, coordinated and long-term strategy needed to support joint science, engineering and application work, including IPR, standardisation, market development, training and public procurement.

The quantum flagship will be managed as part of the Future and Emerging Technologies (FET) programme. It is expected to be a large-scale initiative similar in size, timescale and ambition to the two ongoing FET flagships, the Graphene flagship and the Human Brain Project.

The flagship will be partly financed from H2020 and from different other sources at EU and national level.  The additional sources for its financial support, its leadership and governance will be defined as part of the flagship preparation process.

More details concerning the preparatory phase of the Quantum flagship in the blogpost signed by Thierry van der Pyl , Director at the European Commission. 

20 years of EU investment in quantum

The European Commission has supported quantum technologies over the last 20 years with a cumulative investment reaching around €550M (Staff Working Document on Quantum Technologies). Within Horizon 2020, the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, the Commission is already supporting actively quantum technology notably from the FET Work Programme for 2016-2017. Thanks to this effort, Europe has a well acknowledged world-class scientific and technical expertise in Quantum Technologies. The European research community has already put much effort into structuring its work in this area around a number of technological domains like communication, sensing, simulation and computing.