French president details €1.8b quantum plan

By Anne-Françoise Pelé for EETIMES Europe – Two years after unveiling France’s roadmap in artificial intelligence, French President Emmanuel Macron presented this week a national strategy for quantum technologies. The five-year €1.8 billion plan aims to finance research in quantum computing, communications and sensing.  

“Quantum strategy is of paramount importance,” said Macron during a speech on January 21st at the Center for Nanoscience and Nanotechnologies (C2N) in Paris-Saclay, France. “Like artificial intelligence, microelectronics, health, energy and space technologies, quantum technologies are among the few keys to the future that France absolutely must have in hand.”

The French government will invest €200 million per year over the next five years, or €1 billion in total. The remaining €800 million will come from commitments made by industrial players (€500 million), European funding (€200 million), and investors revolving around the French startup ecosystem (€100 million). 

“By tripling our annual financial effort, we are already joining the leading trio of quantum nations [after the United States and China],” claimed Macron. 

France’s quantum strategy is based on two main axes. “The first is global and integrated technological development, from fundamental research to industrialization,” said Macron. “The second is the strengthening of the French innovation ecosystem in its European environment, in particular by developing human capital and by recruiting, training and attracting the best both in public research and in industry.”

French President Emmanuel Macron detailing France’s Quantum Strategy in Paris-Saclay (Source: L’Elysée)

To implement France’s strategy, €430 million will be dedicated to work on the universal quantum computer, while €350 million will be allocated to projects on quantum simulators. In addition, €320 million will be devoted to quantum communication systems, €250 million to quantum sensors and €150 million to post-quantum cryptography. Finally, €300 million will be invested in related quantum technologies such as cryogenics.

For quantum computing, Macron said the plan will be a step-by-step process. “First, we must acculturate ourselves to the use of quantum computer simulators, develop a hybrid computer, especially for chemistry and logistics, artificial intelligence, and this, starting in 2023. France will host the world’s first hybrid quantum computer infrastructure. We will also need to enrich our ecosystem of developers in this field to anticipate future breakthrough.”

Eventually, Macron claimed, “France could be the first state to have a complete prototype of a general-purpose quantum computer.”

This plan is largely based on the January 2020 report titled “Quantum: the technological shift that France will not miss” which highlighted the excellence of French research, but also the country’s lagging behind in terms of investment and technology transfers to industry.

Shortly after its release,” EE Times Europe consulted Éric Mounier, quantum expert and fellow analyst at Yole Développement, to assess France’s chances for success.

“France is world-class for its strong competencies in mathematics, a critical discipline for quantum [computing],” he said. “We also have strong knowledge in engineering and software, which are key to the development of quantum computers.”

“France’s main weakness is — as always — industrialization, and crossing the chasm of R&D to commercial products is still challenging in France.” Full story