March 4, 2024

Europe makes a name for itself in quantum computing

While quantum computers They will never be used to perform mundane tasks, such as word processing or accounting, they will be able to solve certain problems that conventional machines cannot solve in a reasonable time. A small number of those problems are so important that most countries in the industrial world are already investing in quantum computing, either to get an early advantage or not to fall too far behind.

Researchers predict that once the technology is mastered, quantum computers will be used to do things like simulate complex biochemical systems and solve optimization problems, such as finding the best route between two points or determining the optimal investment allocation in finance.

Theorists predict that quantum computing will be able to crack even today’s most powerful encryption keys in a matter of minutes, making the secrets of any organization or citizen transparent to any other country or private organization that owns the technology. These are just some of the areas in which quantum computers are expected to have a big advantage over classical computers.

The race between industrialized countries and trading blocs to dominate technology continues, and three regional poles are emerging: the United States, China and Europe. While Europe has already produced several quantum computers, none are as large or sophisticated as those produced by IBM or China.

According Olivier Ezrattyauthor of Understanding quantum technologies 2023, the challenge for Europe is to position itself outside of where the United States and China are likely to end up in quantum computing. China and other Asian countries tend to be very strong in hardware manufacturing, and the United States often leads in technology commercialization, thanks to a large, homogeneous domestic market.

To help ensure that Europe finds a place in a post-quantum world, the European quantum flagship It was formally launched in October 2018 and can expect to receive a total of €1 billion to invest over a 10-year period.

The money will mainly support projects that help transform European research into commercial applications in four main areas: quantum computing; quantum simulation; quantum communication; and quantum sensing and metrology. The stated goal of the project is to make Europe one of the world’s leading regions for quantum expertise and innovation.

The strengths of Europe

According to Ezratty, when it comes to quantum computing, Europe is already very well positioned in five key areas:

  • Publicly funded research and academia;
  • A dynamic industrial ecosystem;
  • Leadership in enabling technology;
  • Integration of high-performance computers and quantum systems;
  • Responsible innovation.

Ezratty says that if you add all the member states and the European Union (EU) itself, Europe is the world’s largest public investor in quantum research. But the United States has more overall industry funding, thanks to companies like IBM, Google, Microsoft and Intel. The United States also leads the world in the number of startups and how well those companies are funded.

“In any technology, it’s often better to be the producer,” Ezratty says. “But if you can’t be the producer, you can have something to exchange with the producer. Sometimes that gives it an even stronger hand, especially in a nascent market, when manufacturers haven’t done it yet. make money selling products.

“In a nascent market, the organizations that manufacture the enabling products and components can already make very significant profits. “Once the market matures, enabling technology remains important and can often be a more powerful bargaining chip than complete products.”

Although Europe is already a producer of quantum computers, companies such as IQM, Quandela, pasqal and AQT, also provides much of the enabling technology, which may be even more important. According to Ezratty, Europe has already taken the lead in several important technologies needed for quantum computing. These include cryogenics, special cables and connectors, and tools and techniques for integrating quantum computers with high-performance computers.

Cryogenic systems are needed to keep quantum computers at the very cold temperatures they need to operate. “Finnish company azulfors is the clear world leader in Cryogenic systems used for quantum computing.” says Ezratty. “They have more than 70% of that market. Second place goes to Oxford Instruments in the United Kingdom.”

Special cables are needed to perform input and output operations between qubits and traditional electronics. These wires must interact with the qubits without disturbing the extremely cold environments in which the qubits must operate. “Delft Circuits in the Netherlands is positioned to lead the takeoff of this market,” says Ezratty.

Connectors used for quantum computing must meet strict requirements. french firm Radial It is already doing good business selling magnetically shielded connectors, miniature connectors, and cryogenic switches for use in quantum systems. Ezratty says that, like cables, connectors are particularly important for enabling communication between a very cold quantum environment and traditional electronics.

While there is currently no useful application of this agreement, outside of academic research, it could be the precursor to an important paradigm. Once quantum computers are able to solve useful problems, a supercomputer will be able to hand off specific tasks to a quantum system, where they can be carried out much faster.

Beyond enabling technologies

As quantum computers become useful, the smart move for Europe will be to maintain their position in the production of enabling technology, while moving up the value chain, where they will begin to make profits. Europe’s current investment in research – and efforts to develop a diverse ecosystem around quantum technologies – will likely bear fruit by then.

Quantum’s European flagship is taking the right steps by encouraging collaborative research between member countries. Additionally, venture capitalists are betting on startups across the continent. An example of this is that of the French company Quantification, which claims to be the world’s “first early-stage venture capital fund dedicated to deep physics and quantum technologies.” Quantonation has already funded 28 startups in eight countries, with the aim of commercializing the technology.

So far, quantum computing hasn’t solved any useful problems, but when it does, Europe will be in the game. Perhaps most importantly, member states are cooperating to address a major global technological challenge as a union.

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