3.1 QIPC research in Europe - European union level

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Research in Quantum Information Processing and Communication (QIPC) has a high risk nature and long-term outlook which is very much in scope of information and communication technologies (ICT). The “Future and Emerging Technologies” programme (FET) being part of the ICT research theme of European Commission has as early as in the mid 90’s recognized the potential of QIPC. From the very beginning FET has been successful in attracting the best research teams in Europe to its collaborative programme, more recently including also excellent teams in USA, Australia and Asia. It is fair to say that the pathfinder role of FET has been crucial for the development of the QIPC research domain in Europe.

In the late 80's and early 90's quantum phenomena were studied by projects funded by the EC in the field of optoelectronics and electronics with the aim to overcome the limitations to the respective state-of-the-art devices. In the Fourth Framework Programme (FP4, 1995 – 1998) this research gradually evolved towards the objective of “quantum information processing”. The focus was on the demonstration of quantum entanglement with photons, which was technologically more mature. In the mid 90's, important results were achieved by several groups in Europe and shortly after they became the driving force behind a number of FET projects.

During 1998 the QCEPP working group (the so-called Pathfinder Project) laid the bases for the research field of QIPC at European level and was the first endeavour explicitly addressing this area of research. This working group produced an extensive report with a roadmap, a map of European research teams with relevant competencies and set the research agenda for several years ahead. It played a crucial role by organizing the research community, by stimulating it to reach critical mass within a short time period and by building the support for the launch of QIPC as a Proactive Initiative.

The proactive initiative QIPC and its successors

In FP5 (1999–2002) FET launched QIPC as a Proactive Initiative (PI). It was implemented via „calls for proposals" directly targeted to QIPC and a certain amount of the FET budget was reserved in advance. There were two calls for proposals and 25 projects were launched with total cost of 41 M€ and EU funding of 31 M€. The contracts of the last group of FP5 projects finished at the end of 2005. Integrating the projects arising from the Open scheme with those supported through the proactive initiative and coordinate the work of all these projects was a main priority of the proactive initiative in FP5. Important traditions were also established at that time. Each year since the beginning of the proactive initiative two major events have been organized. The first one is a „cluster review and conference". Its goals are to evaluate the work of each project and how its objectives fit within the cluster, to revise priorities if necessary and to evaluate the progress of the cluster as a whole. The second event is the annual European QIPC workshop where projects present their work. Both forums give the opportunity for interactions between the members of the projects and for cross-fertilization.

In FP6 (2003–2006) QIPC continued as a FET PI. There was one call for Integrated Projects (IP) in September 2004. Three Integrating Projects (IPs) succeeded in the evaluations and started in November 2005 with a contract for four years and total EU funding of 25 M€:

  • SCALA – Scalable Quantum Computing with Light and Atoms (9.4 M€) with a focus on the realization of a scalable quantum computer, by using individually controlled atoms, ions and photons;
  • QAP – Qubit Applications (9.9 M€) with a focus on qubit applications that are based on photonic, atomic and solid state systems;
  • EuroSQIP – European Superconducting Quantum Information Processor" (6M€): with a focus on developing a 3-5-qubit quantum information processor on platforms based on Josephson junction technology.

In FP7 (2007-2013) QIPC was still chosen as a FET PI, and there were two calls for projects proposals.

  • In the first one (FET-Proactive Objective ICT 2009.8.2) the proactive initiave took on the new name “Quantum Information Foundations and Technologies” (QI-FT) and organized a call for proposals for IPs that would exploit the quantum nature of information for new ways of computing and communicating, as well as develop entanglement-enabled quantum technologies with a general potential for application in ICT. Three projects started in February 2010 with a total EU funding of 15 million Euros. Remarkably, also research groups from outside Europe (and in particular the US, Australia and Singapore) were attracted by these projects.
    • AQUTE (5.3 M€) strives to realise an atomic, molecular and optical (AMO)-based quantum-information processor involving up to 10 qubits and capable to simulate quantum systems, to develop novel hybrid quantum systems, and to explore novel theoretical concepts, such as dissipative quantum computation.
    • Q-ESSENCE (4.7 M€) pursues the hybridization of quantum information media with a focus on making networks, long-distance entanglement, applications, and verification. These outcomes will be reached through the underpinning science and enabling technologies such as light-matter interfaces providing faithful interconversion between different physical realizations of qubits or quantum information concepts that solve problems of limited trust and privacy intrusion.
    • SOLID (5.0 M€) aims at developing small solid-state hybrid systems on common platforms based on microwave and optical nano-photonic cavities for the purpose of performing elementary quantum information processing tasks. Various types of solid-state qubits will be connected to these "hubs": Josephson junction circuits, quantum dots and NV centres in diamond. Focus is on design, fabrication, characterization, combination, and operation of quantum-coherent hybrid registers involving 3-9 qubits.

    Remarkably, also research groups from outside Europe (and in particular the US, Australia and Singapore) were attracted by these projects from the beginning. In addition, within the framework of the FET-Open Objective ICT-2011.9.4: International cooperation on FET research two projects (AQUTE and SOLID) have included in their respective Consortia overseas partners (Harvard University for  AQUTE and University of California, Santa Barbara and the join institute JILA of the University of Colorado and the National Institute for Standards and Technologies for SOLID).

  • In the second call (FET-Proactive Objective ICT 2011.9.7) the PI was renamed “Quantum ICT (QICT) including ERA-NET-Plus” for an indicative budget of 15 M€ (STREPs and IPs) and 7 M€ reserved for the ERA-NET Plus proposal; as the latter project did not materialize, the total call volume was of 22 M€ for STREPs and IPs. The funded projects are two IPs (SCALEQIT and SIQS) and 4 STREPs (HANAS, MATTERWAVE, QALGO and QWAD) that will all start running during 2013.

QIPC in the FET OPEN scheme

Also in FP7 a significant number of FET OPEN projects (for a total of 25 projects) have been working on QIPC topics with a total funding of about 50 M€. The complete list of funded projects can be found at this link (status as of January 2013); the currently running projects are 10 (DIAMANT, IQUIT, iSense, MALICIA, PHORBITECH, PICC, QCS, QIBEC, QUANTIP, SPANGL4Q).

The QIPC coordination actions

Since 2005 a series of Coordination Action Projects has supported the QIPC initiative. Their goal is to collaborate with the QIPC FET proactive initiative in developing a strategy and in carrying out common activities. ERA-Pilot QIST started out to promote QIPC research in Europe and to give recommendations to European and national authorities on policy, structuring, coordination and funding. One of its important contributions was the stimulation of the QIPC Roadmap and the compilation of information about national and international QIPC programmes. Its successor QUROPE aimed at structuring the European QIPC research community around the FET QIPC proactive initiative and covered a large spectrum of activities like: developing a common European vision, strategy and goals for QIPC research, updating the QIPC roadmap, increasing the public awareness and aim at broad dissemination activities; developing a map of European QIPC groups; organizing scientific meetings; creating links with industry and developing international collaboration outside of Europe. QUROPE entertained close links to some 80 research groups and was instrumental to give the European QIPC community a strong voice.

In February 2010 the project QUIE2T has taken over the coordination tasks from QUROPE. It aims at strengthening and advancing the European scientific and technological excellence in the field of Quantum Information Foundations and Technologies (QIFT) and fostering the FET Proactive in a similar way as QUROPE did. It also aims at setting up a sustainable research network, structured around four Virtual Institutes for Quantum Computation, Quantum Communication, Quantum Information Sciences and Quantum Technologies, and promoting it at the European level.

The ERA-NET initiative CHIST-ERA (started in December 2009) though not entirely devoted to the QIPC field, had QIPC as a topic in its first joint transnational call for projects (run between the end of 2010 and the beginning of 2011). The call volume was 9 M€ and 8 STREP-like projects were funded (CQC, DIQIP, HIPERCOM, QINVC, QScale, QUASAR, R-ION, SSQN)

Finally, the coordination action QUAINT funded through FET-Open, unites the forces of multiple EU and Israeli research groups working in the field of optimal control of quantum systems in order to explore a radical expansion of the currently established quantum technologies.

QIPC in other parts of the EU framework programme for research

While the QIPC research activities have been initiated in the FET programme, they turned out to develop ramifications relevant to other EU programmes dealing with ICT and research in general. These were either driven by the potential of technological application or the scientific impact on neighbouring disciplines.

The strategic objective on Security of the IST Research Program had funded SECOQC – "Development of a Global Network for Secure Communication based on Quantum Cryptography" with 11.35 M€ in FP6 . The consortium comprises 40 excellent research groups in the field of applied quantum cryptography to realize an open network for dependable and secure long-range quantum communication building upon a Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) technology. The functionality of the developed architecture has been successfully demonstrated in the end of 2008. In addition the consortium published a White Paper on Quantum Key Distribution and Quantum Cryptography (2007) and started activities on standardization of the developed technolgy.

The objective on organic photonics and other disruptive Technologies has funded in FP7 one QIPC project: QuRep (1.9 M€) on quantum repeaters for secure long-distance communications in state-of-the-art optical fibre-based telecommunication networks.

Other projects in the area of QIPC funded by the European Commission research program in general are the two Marie Curie research training networks funded by the Marie Curie program of DG RTD. They are CONQUEST: "Controlled Quantum Coherence and Entanglement in Sets of Trapped Particles" and ATOMCHIPS.

Finally, the European Science Foundation (ESF) has funded in 2011 a foresight exercise - or Forward Look - to strategically explore the scientific as well as social dimensions of how the science and technology of Quantum Information advances in the future. This has resulted in the FARQUEST Forward Look which represents a prospective analysis of the science and technology of Quantum Information, with the goal to synthesise science scenarios of future developments inspired by cross-disciplinary fields - most of which may not yet be thoroughly quantified - for collaborative significant problem-solving. FARQUEST will take an about 10-year horizon on selected research fronts, aiming at getting insight into significant problems of cross-disciplinary nature that could mutually benefit from addressing them through both the perspective of Quantum Information and perspectives of other disciplines.

Role of the FET QIPC proactive initiatives

The FET QIPC proactive initiative and its successors play a leading role in connecting the European research activities in the field. Besides providing important funds for research activities they strive to

  • Foster collaboration between research groups in different countries;
  • Facilitate exchange of knowledge, students and researchers between different groups;
  • Establish free movement of knowledge as a fifth freedom in Europe besides people, goods, capital and services;
  • Plan pan-European events and dissemination activities to promote a comprehensive public image of the field through conferences, workshops, common European web portal;
  • Structure and strengthen the research community;
  • Establish and maintain a dialogue with research managers in the member states and at the European level;
  • Define a common strategy for research;
  • Establish a dialogue with industry;
  • Create international alliances and a strategy for international collaboration.

In each of the objectives listed above significant progress has been made. Particular highlights have been

  • The establishment of a research agenda which is called QIPC strategic report on current status, visions and goals for research in Europe. 40 leading scientists in QIPC have contributed to this research agenda. It was published in 1999 for the first time with and since then regularly updated. This version is the 8th update;
  • The organization of QIPC conferences. A biannual international conference series on quantum information science and technologies has been started and become a big success. In the last theew editions in Barcelona (2007), Rome (2009) and Zurich (2011) the organizers could attract more than 300 participants not only from Europe, but also from Asia and the US. The next edition of the conference is planned for 2013 in Florence;
  • The raising of interest from relevant industry. The coordination actions managed to create links with industrial players active in communication and networking technologies. For example industry sessions have been organized at the QIPC conferences and a dialogue with interested companies has been established. Some of them even joined a research consortium with QIPC scientists to run the European project SECOQC. Overall the ground has been prepared for the swift up-take of commercially interesting results coming out of the QIPC research activities; a list of industries maintaining regular contatcs with the QIPC community is available at this link
  • The attraction of international partners to collaborative EU research projects. While the QIPC activities have started as a European research programme with mainly partners from Europe, it turned out that more and more research groups from overseas are eager to join in. In consequence the number of international partners in the QIPC projects hase risen in the last calls to about 10% of the total. This development is supported by the availability of funding for these partners under certain conditions such as unique expertise of the partner. The experiences have been very positive so far;
  • The acknowledgement of QIPC researchers' scientific work through numerous prestigious Prizes including the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2005 and in 2012 to mention one. The community is also proud to count around 35 grantees of the European Research Council amongst them.

In conclusion, there is good hope that the field of QIPC will keep and even increase its momentum as a locomotive in longterm ICT research and will eventually contribute to the transformation of scientific results into commercially applicable technologies for the benefit of the whole European society.