€1 Billion Quantum Project planned for 2018

The European Commission has announced plans to launch a €1 billion project to boost a raft of quantum technologies; from secure communication networks to ultra-precise gravity sensors and clocks.

The initiative, to launch in 2018, will be similar in size, timescale and ambition to two existing projects;  the decade-long Graphene Flagship and the Human Brain Project.

The commission is likely to have a “substantial role” in funding the flagship, according to Tommaso Calarco, who leads the Integrated Quantum Science and Technology Centre at the Universities of Ulm and Stuttgart in Germany. Calarco co-author of the Quantum Manifesto insists “Countries around the world are investing in these technologies. Without such an initiative, Europe risks becoming a second-tier player. The time is really now or never.”

Quantum Buzz

High-profile US companies are already investing in quantum computing and Chinese scientists are nearing the completion of a 2,000-kilometre long quantum-communication link — the longest in the world — to send information securely between Beijing and Shanghai.

In Europe, the flagship is expected to fuel the development of such technologies, which the commission calls part of a “second quantum revolution” (the first being the unearthing of the rules of the quantum realm, which led to the invention of equipment such as lasers and transistors).

The initiative will include support for relatively near-to-market systems, such as quantum-communication networks, ultra-sensitive cameras and quantum simulators that could help to design new materials. It will also look to the longer term, pushing more-futuristic visions such as all-purpose quantum computers and high-precision sensors that fit into mobile phones.

Quantum-technology projects already exist in several individual European Union countries, such as the UK Quantum Technologies Programme and the Netherlands’ QuTech initiative, notes Marco Genovese, a quantum physicist at the Italian National Institute of Metrological Research in Turin. But to reach commercial level in the near future, an EU-wide initiative is essential, he says. “At the moment, EU industry is still only marginally involved,” he says.

Humble Beginnings

Europe’s Graphene and Human Brain projects were announced with great fanfare in 2013 after a multi-year competition, but the latest initiative has had a much quieter birth. Calarco says that it was driven by an 18-month dialogue between the commission and a group of researchers who, at the organization’s request, produced the manifesto.

Genovese warns that the new project must be careful to avoid the problems faced by existing giant flagships, which included accusations of mismanagement and veering off course. “The building of the flagship must involve all the main research groups that have really significantly worked in the field through a bottom-up approach, and the concentration of power should be avoided,” he says.

The original article, can be found here.

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