Europe Launches Ten-year, €1B Quantum Flagship Project

By John Russell

October 29, 2018

The European Union today jumped into the increasingly globalized race for viable quantum computing technology with the launch of a €1 billion Quantum Flagship project intended “to place Europe at the forefront of Quantum innovation.” Just last month, the U.S. House passed a $1.275B national quantum initiative which the Senate is expected to approve soon. China had embarked on a national program even earlier including a reported planned investment of $10 billion into a national quantum research center[i].

The worldwide race for quantum computing writ large is heating up.

Europe’s latest Flagship project was announced at a conference in Austria. Like the U.S. quantum initiative, the Quantum Flagship is a ten-year project. It will involve more the 5000 European researchers, according to the announcement, and twenty projects of the initial 140 submitted projects (examples listed below) will be tackled during Quantum Flagship’s early stages.

The initiative identifies five main areas of study:

  • Quantum Communication
  • Quantum Computing
  • Quantum Simulation
  • Quantum Metrology and Sensing
  • Basic Science

QF’s stated goals – like those generally cited by its global rivals – are ambitious: “[Quantum Flagship] aims to bring disruptive quantum technologies to the scientific arena and to society in general by bringing forward new commercial opportunities addressing global challenges, providing strategic capabilities for security and seeding yet unimagined applications for the future. It will build a network of European Quantum Technologies programs that will foster an ecosystem capable of delivering the knowledge, technologies and open research infrastructures and testbeds necessary for the development of a world-leading knowledge-based industry in Europe.”

How all of this will play out remains unclear. A number of commercial players – e.g. IBM, Google, Microsoft, Rigetti, D-Wave – are busily pursuing their own paths and there are now three “quantum cloud” offerings in various stages of roll-out available to quantum tinkerers. It is really difficult to know how long the development cycle will take to produce viable quantum systems. The EU project is characterizing its efforts as tackling The Second Quantum revolution presumably because many of the basics have already been worked out.

Tommaso Calarco, of the Institute for Quantum Control of Forschungszentrum Jülich, is the ‘coordinator of the Quantum Coordination and Support Action’ in charge of successfully launching the Quantum Flagship. “The European Quantum Technologies community has worked long and hard towards realizing this initiative. We are very happy that the first research and innovation actions are now ready to start with high momentum. Together, we will further strengthen Europe’s leading role in quantum research and transfer the insights from this into relevant applications for the benefit of all European citizens,” he said in the official announcement.

The first 3-year phase of the Quantum Flagship, “named the ramp-up phase”, will run through September 2021 and fund projects with an overall budget of 132 million euros. Of the140 submitted proposals, 10 were for quantum communication, 11 for quantum computing, six for quantum simulation, 22 for quantum metrology and sensing, and 90 for basic science.

Shown here are descriptions of a few of the first 20 projects selected by Quantum Flagship (name of project, organization undertaking the project, description):

Quantum Communication

  • Continuous Variable Quantum Communications, ICFO, Spain – The goal of the CiViQ project is to provide optical telecommunication networks with unconditional security by developing quantum key distribution technologies with an unprecedented level of flexibility and cost-effective integration into current infrastructures.
  • Quantum Internet Alliance, Technische Universiteit Delft, Netherlands – The Quantum Internet Alliance will create a Blueprint for a pan-European Quantum Internet by developing all essential subsystems – quantum repeaters, end nodes as well as the first quantum network stack – culminating in the first experimental demonstration of a fully integrated stack running on a multi-node quantum network.
  • Quantum Random Number Generators: cheaper, faster and more secure, Universite de Geneve, Switzerland – Based on new concepts, QRANGE will develop prototypes of quantum random number generators that are cheap and compact or faster and more secure. We complement these technical advancements with use-case specifications and a certification framework.
  • Affordable Quantum Communication for Everyone: Revolutionizing the Quantum Ecosystem from Fabrication to Application, AIT Austrian Institute of Technology GmbH, Austria – UNIQORN develops cost-effective physical-layer technology to drive quantum communication applications and bolster future volume production. The focus lies on the shoehorning of quantum components towards system-on-chip implementations that will ultimately enrich global communication networks.

Quantum Computing

  • Advanced quantum computing with trapped ions, Universität Innsbruck, Austria – The AQTION consortium will realize a fully-automated ion-trap quantum computer to solve scientific and commercially interesting problems beyond the capabilities of classical computers.
  • An Open Superconducting Quantum Computer, Universität des Saarlandes, Germany– OpenSuperQ will build a quantum computer with up to 100 qubits that cannot be simulated on current classical supercomputers. One system will be installed in a central quantum computing laboratory and be accessible for the community.  Its technology will be as open as possible.

Quantum Simulation

  • Programmable Atomic Large-Scale Quantum Simulation, Max-Planck-Gesellschaft zur Forderung der Wissenschaften eV, Germany – The goal of PASQuanS is to push the already well-advanced neutral atom and ion-based quantum simulation platforms far beyond both the state-of-the-art and the reach of classical computation. Full programmability will make it possible to address quantum annealing or optimization problems.
  • Quantum simulation and entanglement engineering in quantum cascade laser frequency combs, Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, Italy – The Qombs project aims to create a quantum simulator platform made of ultracold atoms for engineering a new generation of quantum cascade laser frequency combs characterized by non-classical emission and entanglement among the comb modes, to be exploited for quantum communication and detection.

Not surprisingly, the European quantum research community is excited by the new opportunity. Niels Bohr Institute (NBI) at the University of Copenhagen, for example, has deep history in quantum research and will participate in the Quantum Flagship project and released its own announcement.

“The EU Flagship provides a unique opportunity to engage in research alliances that link the strongest academic groups together in the effort to solve some of the major challenges facing society, such as security or supercomputing. The ultimate dream is to build is to build quantum computers that can solve problems that are impossible with existing computers—or a quantum internet, where unbreakable communication can take place risk free and security is guaranteed by the laws of quantum physics,” said Peter Lodahl, a professor at the NBI who is the head of the group ‘Quantum Photonics’, which, among other things, focuses on producing photonic chips that could be used for quantum technology based on light

After the Graphene Flagship and the Human Brain Project, the Quantum Flagship is the third large-scale research and innovation Flagship initiative funded by the European Commission.

Link to Quantum Flagship website: https://qt.eu

Link to announcement: https://qt.eu/news/quantum-technologies-launch-press-release/

Link to Niels Bohr Institute: http://www.nbi.ku.dk/english/news/news18/a-billion-euros-for-quantum-research/

[i]https://www.scmp.com/news/china/economy/article/2140860/china-winning-race-us-develop-quantum-computers

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