Today, the European Commission announced that its Quantum Flagship Programme will contribute 10 million euro to the development of a blueprint for a future quantum internet. Applications of networks based on quantum entanglement include improving the security of for instance financial transactions, and could give inherently secure networks. The blueprint will be developed by the Quantum Internet Alliance, a consortium of leading quantum research groups and high tech companies in Europe led by QuTech from Delft University in The Netherlands. The aim of the consortium is to develop the technology needed for such a quantum internet, ensuring a leading role for European industry in this emerging field of technology. The funds granted by the EC are part of a first phase of funding from the 1 billion euro ten year Flagship programme.
A quantum internet uses an intriguing quantum phenomenon to connect different nodes in a network together. In a normal network connection, nodes exchange information by sending electrons or photons hence and forth, making them vulnerable for eavesdropping. In a quantum network, the nodes are connected by ‘entanglements’, where a change in the state of one node instantly affects the others without exchanging information. This allows for communication networks that are inherently secure. A guideline to the development of such network was recently published in Science.
Quantum Internet Alliance
“We are very close to building the first quantum networks with three or four nodes now. This grant allows us to speed up in order to keep Europe at the front of this fascinating field of research and technology development”, says Stephanie Wehner, coordinator of the Quantum Internet Alliance. “Importantly, this project establishes a team of computer science, engineering and physics researchers as well as high tech industry across Europe, because we can only be successful together. By building quantum networks, we want European research groups and high-tech industry to be at the forefront of what could be a completely new field of technology”. The Quantum Internet Alliance consists of twelve leading research groups at universities from eight European countries, in close cooperation with over twenty companies and institutes.
EU Quantum Flagship
The contribution to quantum internet is part of the first phase of funding of the EU Quantum Flagship. Over the next ten years, the European Union is planning to invest one billion euros on the development of quantum technology. The Quantum Flagship was launched in 2018 as one of the largest and most ambitious research initiatives of the European Union. The flagship brings together academia, industry, and policy makers in order to expand European leadership in this field and to transfer research results from the lab to the market. With over 5,000 researchers the initiative aims to make the region a worldwide knowledge-based industry and technological leader in this field over the next ten years.
Realizing the potential impact of a quantum internet requires a sustained and focused effort. For instance, entanglement should be created much faster than it gets lost. With the funding of the EU Quantum Flagship, the Quantum Internet Alliance will establish the first multi-node quantum processor networks, lay the groundwork for quantum repeater technology to allow quantum bits to travel long distances, and develop the first software and network stack for allowing scalable control and software development to make a Quantum Internet useful.