Germany supports Quantum Computing with 2 billion euros in funding, but can it compete with North America or the UK?

As nations get excited by the prospect of a new industrial revolution sparked by developments in Quantum Computing, Germany has decided to back the sector with €2 billion in funding (around $2.4 billion) over the next four years. The funds will support the whole quantum sector which includes the fundamental technologies which enable Quantum Computing and potentially derivatives such as the Quantum internet. The science ministry has a target to spend 1.1 billion euros by 2025, focused on research and development in Quantum Computing. Further funds approximately (900 million euros) will go into developing practical applications of the technologies.

“It’s our goal that Germany will become one of the best players worldwide in the development and practical application of quantum computing,”

GERMAN ECONOMY MINISTER PETER ALTMAIER.

The largest receiptent of the funding will be Germany’s Aerospace Center (DLR). It will receive the bulk of the subsidies of around 700 million euros which will go into furthering partnerships and relationships with industrial companies.

Some applications such as management of supply and demand in the energy sector, improved traffic control and faster testing of new active substances such as drugs are touted to be benefiting from developments in Quantum Computing. There is a wider plan to build an EU Quantum Computer within 5 years as a way of decoupling from non European technologies. Labs and start-ups’s alike and established companies such as Google, IBM, D-wave, Honeywell, Xanadu… have developed Quantum Computers – many of which are publicly accessible and based in America or Canada. Perhaps IBM being the most vocal in its efforts to put Quantum Computing on the cloud – something it has achieved for coming up to 5 years. Keen to not get left behind this push will please those in Europe who are keen on exploiting the Quantum sector.

But any outsider looking in would say already Europe lags behind in terms of platforms, an aspect that has enabled companies to garner massive leverage over traditional markets. As yourself what European technology is invoked when you go about your day? Google, Facebook, Amazon, IBM, Microsoft? None of these companies were born in Europe. Today some of the most widely used tools in Quantum Computing are outside of Europe. Of course there are notable contenders such as t | ket > from CQC which is a Quantum Computing language that can offer performance enhancements.

One disadvantage is clearly the lack of a classical cloud provider in Europe. Much of the worlds infrastructure runs on AWS (Amazon Web Services, US), GCP (Google Cloud Platform, US) or Azure (Microsoft, US). Clearly having an existing cloud offering can radically attract users to a platform. Nor does Europe have a search engine. Europe needs to do more in terms of an “on-ramp” to get customers into Quantum.

“Quantum computing has the potential to revolutionise key industries of our economy,”

German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier

The goal appears to be able to build technology arising from Germany. So called “Made in Germany”. The question for Germany and in fact any European business is whether they can compete with the largest players who are attracting the best talent, are protecting their ideas and readying for market. Sadly across Europe as a geography (including the UK), not many technology companies of note have emerged and we (europeans) have given way to using American and Canadian technology. That said, we are increasingly seeing well funded start-ups in the UK such as CQC (Cambridge Quantum Computing) which is rather like the Google DeepMind (but originally emanated from the UK) of Quantum Machine Learning.

Clearly the European eco-system needs to thrive and it can do that with plenty of funding to attract and retain the best talent against the might of deeper VC funded pockets, but if some of these VC’s are funding closer to home that then can help offset some of the Quantum “Brain Drain”. Take what happened with PsiQuantum who are perhaps the single most well VC funded Quantum Start-up companies. The company originally from Bristol decamped to the US in search of a better funding in which to pursue their aspirations of building millions of Qubits into a truly workable Quantum Computer. Changing cultures and Eco-systems is never easy, but there are few success stories and Governments and VC’s should be buoyed by some of the talent that UK, especially has managed to attract and retain.

Its not just about Quantum Computers

Some of the Eco-systems of the UK (yes we discuss the UK a great deal) are in biotech, which unlike traditional drug makers might be faster to adopt some of the benefits of Quantum Technologies. Already companies such as Rahko (Rahko is solving drug discovery with quantum machine learning) and Kuano are working in this space. A natural home for quantum technologies will be like pushing at an open door. Some of those applications are biotech and finance and the UK has historically done very well with those industries and thus Quantum will be a natural fit to help those existing industries thrive.

Germany has plenty of manufacturing, which also has some promise. Optimisation problems can be one target of Quantum Computing. The likes of VW have explored how Quantum Computers can help them with a variety of optimisation problems such as traffic flow. Still to this author, there feels an element of proof of concept vs real need. As whether the massive funds will be there as they are in biotech/drugs/finance is another matter. However the more applications the better the “sweet spot” for the Quantum industry that follows. Without those all important applications there likely won’t be enough funding to see the truly radical impact of Quantum Computing.

We are very encouraged to see more funding hit the sector which can only do more to diversify and provide opportunities for more people and more sectors.

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