The increasing ability to manipulate quantum effects is leading to devices with fundamentally superior performance and capabilities for communication, metrology, sensing, simulation and computing. Data security and safety will also be dramatically impacted by quantum technologies. Therefore, mastering quantum technologies is of strategic importance for a Digital Single Market in Europe.

Quantum technologies is an umbrella term for all technologies that make use of quantum phenomena to achieve new goals. Quantum effects are now beginning to be apparent as feature sizes approach the atomic scale and make improvements in the performance of conventional ICT more difficult. Research into the behaviour of matter at the atomic scale has opened up possibilities for new kinds of ICT which exploit the behaviour that single particles exhibit under suitable conditions.

Many devices and system exploit quantum effects. They can be grouped into three categories:

  • computers/simulators,
  • communication systems,
  • sensors/measuring devices.

FET investment in quantum research has reached more than 300M€ in the past 20 years.

The European Cloud Initiative

Endorsing a strategy for quantum, the European Commission launches an ambitious, long-term and large-scale flagship initiative to unlock the full potential of quantum technologies and accelerate their development and take-up into commercial products in Europe. This is part of the European Cloud Initiative, which objective is to fully unlock the value of big data by providing world-class supercomputing capability, high-speed connectivity and leading-edge data and software services for science, the industry and the public sector. Read more on the staff working document on quantum technologies.

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.

Towards a Quantum technology flagship

The preparation phase for the Quantum Technology flagship started in September 2016, so as to be ready for launching an operational ramp-up phase within Horizon 2020 as of 2018.
The Commission appointed an independent High Level Steering Committee with representatives from academia and industry to oversee this preparatory phase and provide recommendations on various aspects. The High Level Steering Committee will consolidate contributions from the wider group of relevant stakeholders from academia, industry and Member States. It should also build from the lessons learned from the existing flagships.

Quantum revolutions

The first quantum revolution – understanding and applying physical laws of the microscopic realm – resulted in ground-breaking technologies such as the transistor and laser. The impact of this first quantum revolution on our society can hardly be over-stated. Now, our growing ability to manipulate quantum effects in customised systems and materials is paving the way for a second quantum revolution. Its industrial and societal impact is likely to be again radically transformative.

Quantum theory has fundamentally changed our understanding of how light and matter behave at extremely small scales. For example, objects can be in different states at the same time ('superposition') and can be deeply connected without direct physical interaction ('entanglement').

The second quantum revolution takes quantum theory to its technological consequences. It is leading to devices with fundamentally superior performance and capabilities for sensing, measuring, imaging, communication, simulation and computing. Some are starting to be commercially exploited. Others may still require years of careful research and development. Yet others we cannot even imagine today.

Published: 
Thursday, 12 May, 2016
Last update: 
Thursday, 17 August, 2017