In the next few years, quantum technologies will make it possible to do things that simply cannot be done today. With quantum, we could be able to look far beneath the ground or under the sea and perform complex computational tasks, like modelling biomolecular and chemical reactions, that the most powerful supercomputers cannot currently manage. Quantum will help us send sensitive information safely to anywhere, and diagnose diseases more quickly and accurately by looking inside cells.
In the first quantum revolution during the early twentieth century, scientists learned to understand and apply the properties of quantum mechanics – the interactions of molecules, atoms, and even smaller particles like photons and electrons. This ultimately allowed them to create transistors, lasers and microprocessors: foundational technologies for computers, telecommunications, satellite navigation, smartphones, modern medical diagnostics, and much more.
Now, the second quantum revolution is underway. Researchers can detect and manipulate individual particles and their physical interlinkages and interactions, and build new technologies and systems that make use of the properties of the underlying quantum mechanics. These developments have led to major technical advances in many different areas, including quantum computing, sensors, simulations, cryptography and telecommunications. A whole generation of new quantum technologies with the potential for far-reaching economic and societal impact is starting to emerge. Some are already in development, while many others will be developed in the next few decades.
The Quantum Technologies Flagship
Europe has a long tradition of excellence in quantum research. It is now crucial to develop a solid industrial base that builds on this tradition. Without coordinated research and funding efforts at European level, Europe would risk falling behind its global competitors.
To meet this challenge, the Quantum Technologies Flagship was launched in 2018. It is a large-scale, long-term research initiative funded by the EU that brings together research institutions, industry and public funders, consolidating and expanding European scientific leadership and excellence in this field.
As part of the European High Performance Computing Joint Undertaking (EuroHPC JU), the Commission is now planning to build state-of-the-art pilot quantum computers by 2023. These computers would act as accelerators interconnected with the Joint Undertaking’s supercomputers, forming 'hybrid' machines that blend the best of quantum and classical computing technologies.
In 2021, work will begin on the Joint Undertaking’s first quantum simulator, which would also be interconnected with a supercomputer. This will be the first element of a European quantum simulation infrastructure available via the cloud on a non-commercial basis to public and private European users. The infrastructure will be used to address complex simulation and optimisation problems, especially in materials development, drug discovery, transportation and other real-world problems of high importance to industry.
Since June 2019, all 27 EU Member States have signed the EuroQCI Declaration, agreeing to work together, with the Commission and with the support of the European Space Agency, towards the development of a quantum communication infrastructure covering the whole EU (EuroQCI).