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Europe Planning a Billion-Euro Quest for Quantum Tech

Quantum science and technology are getting a huge boost.

A Quantum Manifesto

As any reader of Futurism knows by now, quantum projects—especially quantum computing, that Holy Grail of information technology—are all the rage. All the big nations, geopolitical entities, and multinational tech companies are scrambling to cobble together the world’s first true quantum computer—even heads of state are talking about it.

So it’s hardly surprising that the European Union has decided to wade into the fray. The European Commission—the executive organ of the EU—has just announced plans to inaugurate a projected €1 billion ($1.15 billion) program designed to promote and incubate quantum technology, set to begin in 2018.

The new flagship program is modeled on previous initiatives, such as the billion-euro, decadal Graphene Flagship and Human Brain Project, which are respectively dedicated to developing and implementing graphene-based technology and mapping and understanding the human brain.

The idea behind the initiative is to get Europe back into the quantum game and to position it as a worldwide leader in a field that has no dearth of competitive players.

“The time is really now or never,” says Tommaso Calarco, head of the Integrated Quantum Science and Technology center at the Universities of Ulm and Stuttgart. His “Quantum Manifesto,” published in March, is really the impetus and Bible of the new initiative.

But Will it Work?

The project was greenlighted by the Commission on April 19, and has been folded within the European Open Science Cloud, a cloud-computing portal also launched by the Commission—although the quantum initiative extends far beyond merely computing applications.

The flagship program aims, in the near term, to bring to market a number of quantum technologies that are already set to go—quantum-communication networks, for instance, as well as camera sensors and quantum simulators to aid in the production of novel materials. Further down the road, the hope is to produce the real heavy-hitters—the full-scale quantum computers and spin-off technologies.

Still, there’s plenty of room for skepticism. The initiative was announced with little fanfare, perhaps in part due to the much-hyped launch in 2013 of the graphene and brain programs, and the subsequent troubles that have plagued these expensive, bureaucratic endeavors.

Marco Genovese, an Italian quantum physicist and enthusiastic proponent of the initiative, notes: “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.”

Time will tell if the project will achieve its very lofty ambitions.

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