Quantum technologies use the properties of quantum effects – the interactions of molecules, atoms, and even smaller particles, known as quantum objects – to create practical applications in many different fields.
The so-called first quantum revolution, which allowed scientists to understand and use quantum effects, started in the early 20th century and brought to the market many devices, such as transistors and microprocessors, medical imaging scanners and lasers.
The second quantum revolution started in the early 21st century. Now scientists can manipulate and sense individual particles, measuring and exploiting their properties. This has brought a significant development of quantum technologies and major technical advances in many different areas, including computing, sensors, simulations, cryptography and telecommunications.
Europe in Quantum
Europe has a long tradition of excellence in quantum research, and retaining its globally strong position in this field is of great strategic importance. In the global race to unlock the potential of quantum technologies and bring transformative advances to science, industry and society, Europe must develop a solid industrial base that exploits its scientific leadership.
Ambitious initiatives in quantum technologies are already underway in several EU countries, with the goal of developing commercial applications and bringing them to market. Without coordinated research and funding efforts at European level, Europe risks falling behind its global competitors.
Since 1998, the European Commission’s Future and Emerging Technologies (FET) programme has provided around EUR 550 million of funding for quantum research in Europe. As a coherent, Europe-wide programme supported by all Member States, the Quantum Technologies Flagship, launched in 2018, will build on previous European funding efforts over the last 20 years and enable Europe to match the research and development carried out by its global competitors.
The Quantum Technologies Flagship is a large-scale, long-term research initiative that brings together research institutions, industry and public funders, consolidating and expanding European scientific leadership and excellence in this field. It will foster the development of a competitive quantum industry in Europe, making the results of quantum research available as commercial applications and disruptive technologies.
The Flagship will run for ten years, with an expected budget of EUR 1 billion. In its ramp-up phase (October 2018-September 2021), it will provide EUR 132 million of funding for 20 projects in four application areas:
- quantum communication
- quantum simulation
- quantum computing
- quantum metrology and sensing
It will also fund research into the basic science behind quantum technologies.
The long-term vision of the Flagship is to develop in Europe a so-called quantum web, where quantum computers, simulators and sensors are interconnected via quantum communication networks.
- April 2016: The European Commission announces a Flagship initiative on quantum technologies, as part of the European Cloud Initiative. The initiative is part of the digitisation of the industry package that ambitions to maintain Europe's leading position in data-driven innovation, improve its competitiveness and cohesion and help create a Digital Single Market in Europe.
- May 2016: the Quantum Manifesto, have been handed over at the "Quantum Europe: a New Era of Technology" event.
- August 2016: The Quantum Technology – High Level Steering Committee is set-up to advise the Commission on the design, implementation and long-term governance of the Flagship.
- November 2016: Start of the QuantERA ERA-NET cofund initiative, involving national research funding organisations from 26 Member States and Horizon 2020 associated countries, to foster trans-national cooperation on QT.
- November 2017: Handing-over of the Quantum Technologies-High Level Steering Committee Final Report with a proposed Strategic Research Agenda and draft Flagship governance model.
- January 2018: Start of the first Quantum Technologies Flagship Coordination and Support Action.
- February 2018: Closure of the FET Quantum Technologies Flagship Call (€132 mio).
- August 2018: Closure of the LEIT ICT QKD Testbed Call (€15 mio).
- October 2018: Start of the Quantum Technologies Flagship ramp-up phase and of the 20 first quantum projects.
- 2019: Additional QuantERA ERA-NET call funded by the Member States.
- 2019: Quantum Key Distribution testbed call (€15 million).
- 2020: FET Quantum Technologies Flagship call for QuantERA II (tbc).
- 2021+: Full implementation of the QT Flagship.
- Funding for the Flagship is expected to continue in Horizon Europe, the EU’s new research framework programme.
- The Commission’s proposed Digital Europe programme also includes substantial investments in the deployment of quantum key distribution networks and in building a hybrid supercomputing and quantum computing infrastructure.