Europe’s quantum technology ecosystem, comprised of SMEs, corporations, leading scientists, projects, start-ups and spin-offs, is showing strong signs of growth, a new report shows.
A new study, published on 26 January by the European Commission, shows Europe’s quantum technology ecosystem is thriving, with a suite of solutions being developed by projects, start-ups and spin-offs for a number of applications, including sensing, communication and computation.
The driving force behind many of the continent’s quantum technology breakthroughs since 2018 is the Quantum Flagship – Europe’s €1bn, 10-year research and innovation programme, the report reveals.
The Quantum Flagship consists of a coherent set of research and innovation projects. Calls for projects are issued based on the flagship’s Strategic Research Agenda, thus ensuring that all actors are aligned in pursuing the flagship’s goals. The goal is to consolidate and expand European scientific leadership and excellence in this research area, kick-start a competitive European industry in quantum technologies, and make Europe a dynamic and attractive region for innovative research, business and investments.
Growth from ramp-up phase
Since the initial four-year ‘ramp-up’ phase (2018-2021) began, Europe’s 1,500 quantum scientists across 236 organisations filed 105 patents (with 64 already granted) and published 1,313 scientific papers (with a further 223 under review).
Investment in quantum technologies has been vital in establishing strong growth within the sector. According to the report, during the ‘ramp-up’ phase, the European Commission invested €150m to support 24 consortia involving leading research institutions and companies.
This growth phase was complemented by the Quantera project – a network of 39 public research funding organisations supporting research and innovation in quantum technologies – which leveraged a combined €88.9m. These combined activities helped to establish 25 start-ups and spin-offs that are working to commercialise communication, computation, simulation, sensing and metrology solutions.
Highlights of the Quantum Flagship
The flagship’s researchers have been investigating the most promising scalable quantum computing platforms (superconducting, trapped ions, silicon) to assemble working quantum processors for each approach.
OpenSuperQ is building a globally competitive quantum computer system based on superconducting integrated circuits to outperform classical computers. It will be available at the national research institution, Forschungszentrum Jülich in Germany in early 2023.
Meanwhile, the flagship’s researchers at the Aqtion project have been developing an ion-trap quantum computer – a system using ions trapped by electric fields and manipulated with lasers.
Other notable projects include the Quantum Internet Alliance project which looks at new quantum internet technology by enabling quantum communication between any two points on Earth, the Asteriqs H2020 project that is developing advanced quantum sensors, and the quantum microscope developed by Metaboliqs.
European quantum outlook
The success of the flagship’s ramp-up phase has enabled significant investment from major national quantum initiatives, creating funding comparable to that already committed by the flagship (€2bn in Germany, €1.8bn in France, and €670m in the Netherlands). The authors note that coordinating research at national and European levels is more critical than ever, given that no single country can carry out the complex endeavors required to develop quantum technologies by itself.
At the time of publication, the first quantum computers are being acquired and deployed in EuroHPC. Similarly, the flagship continues to mature other qubit (basic unit of quantum information) approaches so that they can be sufficiently deployed over the coming years. As the flagship moves into its second era, it will continue to mature its quantum computers and develop the most promising new technologies.
Several projects have secured a second phase of European funding to establish, maintain and implement a strategic research roadmap in targeted quantum pillars, such as the EuroQCI and EuroQCS projects launched to develop quantum infrastructures.
At the end of 2022, updates to the Strategic Research and Industry Agenda and the Strategic Industry Roadmap from the Quantum Industry Consortium were published based on the Strategic Research Agenda. These updates introduced the industrial perspectives for quantum technologies and the flagship’s links to other quantum initiatives, such as the European High Performance Computing Joint Undertaking, the European Quantum Communication Infrastructure initiative, and the European Chips Act.
A new Strategic Research and Industry Agenda will be published in 2023, reflecting the flagship’s progress so far and setting goals for its future. The commission will continue to support the flagship until 2027 with at least €500m in funding from Horizon Europe.
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