The French government launched a new programme to link quantum machines and supercomputers on Tuesday (4 January). The resources will have to be made available to researchers and companies to ensure France is up to speed with the technological revolutions to come. EURACTIV France reports.
The creation of a new quantum computing platform was announced by Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly, Research and Innovation Minister Frédérique Vidal, and the Secretary of State for Digital, Cédric O.
The aim is to make this technology accessible to as many people as possible, including the scientific community and French and EU start-ups. The intent is to ensure France does not miss out on the major advances quantum computing could make in the decades to come.
The platform will be installed at the High-Performance Computing Centre at the French Atomic Energy Commission (CEA).
“By mid-2022, we will open a procedure […] for the purchase of two to three quantum hardware machines that are integrated into the platform,” said O, adding that two other calls for tender are planned over the next three years”.
The platform has a total budget of €170 million and is part of the €1.8 billion national quantum strategy, inaugurated on 21 January 2021 by President Emmanuel Macron, who is keen to make this technology a major issue for France’s sovereignty, strategic superiority and independence.
According to Paris, France wants to become one of the world’s leading powers in the field, but the intention is not to sideline its European neighbours. At the EU level, one of the objectives of the Digital Compass is to have the first quantum computer in Europe by 2025.
In August, France and the Netherlands signed a memorandum of understanding aimed at intensifying synergies between the two countries and developing “a European ecosystem […] that provides us with jobs, income and innovation”, according to the then Dutch secretary of state for economic affairs and climate policy, Mona Keijzer.
“The Netherlands and France have been leaders in this field for years, and in order to maintain this international lead, it is necessary to cooperate at the European level,” she said at the time.
More recently, Finnish tech company IQM, which specialises in the development of quantum computers, announced the opening of its fourth European office in the Paris region to strengthen its interactions with the French ecosystem.
A very interested French army
The presence of the armed forces minister at the launch reflects the military’s desire to exploit the advantages of quantum technology for its own purpose.
“Quantum computing is essential for tomorrow’s battles, essential for processing billions of data for intelligence purposes, for optimising vehicle trajectories by taking into account their individual dynamics, for designing an antenna,” Parly explained.
Quantum sensors, in particular, could revolutionise military strategy because of the level of precision in measuring time, gravity or magnetic fields, making it possible to improve the detection of weapons and navigation.
While quantum technology promises major revolutions in a variety of sectors from health to the fight against global warming in both civil and military contexts, it is also expected to bring in a lot of money.
In a report published by the Boston Consulting Group in July, the consultancy estimates that quantum computing could generate between $450 and $850 billion over the next 15 to 30 years.
Le calcul quantique est une promesse pour nos armées : celle de démultiplier nos capacités de calculs en atteignant une vitesse et une complexité inaccessibles à nos processeurs actuels.
— Florence Parly (@florence_parly) January 4, 2022
[Edited by Luca Bertuzzi/Zoran Radosavljevic]