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Commission presents five pillars for quantum development

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The European Commission presented on Friday (22 March) five pillars that will form the basis to boost Europe’s competitiveness in quantum computing, a rapidly growing technology that solves problems too complex for classical computers. 

The pillars will be the bedrock of an action plan with concrete steps, as mentioned in the EU Quantum Declaration. At the time of publication, the Commission did not respond to Euractiv’s question on the budget for the plan or an expected timeline.

Quantum computers outstrip the capacities of supercomputers, which are the hardware on which much of the world’s high-tech products are developed, so a race to develop them is underway among the world’s powers.

The quantum pact will look not only “to ensure that Europe remains competitive in quantum,” but that it becomes a powerhouse in the technology, Thomas Skordas, deputy director-general of communications, networks, content, and technology in the Commission’s DG CONNECT, told on an event organised by the Quantum Flagship in Brussels on 22 March. Quantum Flagship is an EU initiative launched in 2018 to invest €1 billion over 10 years into quantum computing research.

Separately, on March 21, Belgium, Bulgaria, and Poland announced plans to sign the EU Quantum Declaration, which creates a strategic umbrella to coordinate all quantum-related initiatives in the EU. The pact now counts 21 signatories out of 27 member states.

The declaration was first presented by the Spanish Presidency of the Council of the EU in December 2023.

The five pillars

The five pillars announced by Skordas are: supporting startups and SMEs, investing in quantum research, enlarging the quantum investment pool, growing international cooperation, and ensuring effective coordination at the EU and member state level.

The EU is “engaging” with Japan, South Korea and the US to form strategic partnerships in quantum computing, said Skordas.

Challenges ahead in the EU’s quest for continued relevance in this field are the need to attract and nurture a skilled talent pool, and overreliance on non-EU suppliers for critical components and raw materials, Skordas said.

The EU is home to 25% of the world’s small firms in quantum, according to Skordas, which is a significantly better position than in other fields, such as artificial intelligence.

“Our start-up scene is world-leading. We have more than 120 startups right now, similar to the number in the US. I think you will all agree that Europe is well-placed to grow this ecosystem,” Skordas said.

Empty seats

Despite the apparent agreement on Europe’s quantum strategy, a lot of work is needed “to align approaches and to make access, control, and development of quantum technologies part of Europe’s geopolitical discourse,” Andrea G. Rodríguez, lead digital policy analyst for the EU digital agenda at the European Policy Centre (EPC), told Euractiv.

For Rodríguez, the fact that six EU countries have not signed the EU Quantum Declaration shows that “there is much more to be done to show credibility for quantum being a strategic technology” for Europe.

The Commission has several times already pushed back the deadline for submitting a review of the vulnerabilities of four critical technologies deemed critical to the EU’s future, the EPC analyst said. For Rodríguez, this shows that quantum is not of high priority for the Commission.

[Edited by Eliza Griktsi/Zoran Radosavljevic]

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