Mar 17, 2016
Quantum revolution: physicists call for a European initiative
Researchers across Europe are calling on the European Union (EU) to launch a €1bn initiative in quantum technologies to ensure that the continent remains a leader in the field. The group, including the physicist Ignacio Cirac from the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics in Garching, Germany, is asking industries, research institutes and scientists in Europe to endorse its "quantum manifesto" before putting it forward to the European Commission.
The manifesto has been written in response to a request by Günther Oettinger – the European Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society – for a common European strategy on quantum technologies. The manifesto calls for a "flagship-scale initiative" – similar to the EU's 10 year €1bn Graphene Flagship initiative – to begin in 2018, which would invest in education, science, engineering and innovation to unlock the full potential of quantum technologies.
According to the manifesto, a "second quantum revolution" is under way that will bring transformative advances to science, industry and society. Yet it points out that there is currently no coherent, large-scale Europe-wide quantum-technologies programme comparable with those in the US and other countries. If this is not addressed, the authors warn that research and development on quantum technologies in Europe "risks fragmentation and replication of efforts". Indeed, the manifesto points out that a global race for technology and talent has already started, and that Europe cannot afford to lag behind.
Quantum technologies will enable the growth of multiple hi-tech companies, Richard Murray, Innovate UK.
Through a flagship programme, the authors say that the EU could support growth in quantum-technology research and propose short- (0–5 years), medium- (5–10 years) and long-term (>10 years) research goals. A flagship programme could build a favourable innovation and business environment for such technologies, facilitate co-ordination between academia and industry, create "quantum-technology professionals", and co-ordinate public investments and strategies across Europe, as well as promote the involvement of all member regions.
Richard Murray, lead technologist for emerging technologies and industries at Innovate UK and a co-author of the manifesto, says that there is already significant investment from some European countries in quantum technology, as well as a strong base of small and large companies. Yet he says that a better connected and supported quantum technologies "ecosystem" needs to be created.
"This includes scientists to supply good ideas, engineers to turn early prototypes into devices, and innovators to develop commercial products that they can market and sell," he told physicsworld.com. "While the end applications may be unclear at the moment, one thing is certain: quantum technologies will enable the growth of multiple hi-tech companies, securing a significant number of jobs and economic prosperity for many decades into the future."
The manifesto authors also include Aymard de Touzalin of the European Commission, Charles Marcus of the Niels Bohr Institute, Freeke Heijman of the EU presidency and Tommaso Calarco of the University of Ulm. They already have more than 400 endorsements for their quantum manifesto and expect to present their plans at the Quantum Europe conference in Amsterdam on 17 May.