Quantum computing is a rapidly emerging topic, likely to generate a new wave of innovation for the digital sector. It is currently a hot topic for announcements from major digital players such as IBM, Google, Intel or Microsoft. It has the potential to seriously impact many scientific fields, facilitating the solving of problems so complex that traditional computers, even giant supercomputers, could never handle.
Currently, quantum computing is primarily a strategic technology sector due to a sovereignty issue surrounding the challenge of protecting sensitive communications. Quantum computing is also responsible for critical applications that will extend the digital field beyond what is currently feasible, particularly in the fields of health, environment and artificial intelligence.
In terms of maturity, quantum and post-quantum cryptography are both established fields with economic actors and solutions, despite the fact that standardisation of post-quantum cryptography remains incomplete. Quantum computing is less mature, and conveys few fundamental scientific uncertainties.
While scientific uncertainty seems to be partly removed with respect to the feasibility of commercially exploitable quantum computers, there are still significant technological hurdles that need to be overcome in order to achieve this, including the challenging issue of qubit noise and quantum errors correction. Opinions are divided on the speed of the removing of these uncertainties; at Google or Microsoft they predict this will take a few years, for scientists including Alain Aspect this is closer to a few decades, and for some researchers such as Gil Kalai the prediction is “never”.
Therefore, this is an area riddled with scientific and technological uncertainty. The research is now mainly handled by the public sector in key investment countries, then by very large digital players who have plenty to do with technological bets in parallel (Google, Intel, Microsoft, IBM, Alibaba ) and some well-funded startups – mainly in North America (such as D-Wave, IonQ, or Rigetti). The software industry for quantum computers is also in its infancy. Most of the pure players in this sector are dedicated to D-Wave Canadian adiabatic quantum computers, such as QxBranch and 1QBit, which are respectively American and Canadian. The big players and startups working on quantum computers have all invested in software, starting with the tools for developing algorithms and quantum applications. Each aims to create leading software platforms. Although, some are already available in the cloud, as at IBM, others, such as French Atos and Microsoft, offer access through the cloud to quantum simulators based on traditional computers.
What about global investments in quantum computing?
A study provided in 2015  gave an overview of the investments that were likely to be forming public research budgets. The field represented 1500 researchers worldwide for a total budget of $1.5billion. Even though this number has increased since then, it is still relatively small. By the end of 2018, we were in the same state that traditional computing was in 1955. Unsurprisingly, the US and China are in the lead, but the distribution of investments are down in Europe, including both quantum cryptography and quantum calculators. France was ranked as ninth, behind Germany, the United Kingdom, Canada, Japan, Switzerland and Australia.
In the United States, the mobilisation of the public authorities is rather discreet, and despite the fact that they exceeds Europe in quantity, investments from major private actors in fundamental research or those from the NSA, which are probably massive, are strictly confidential. The coordination of research in the different branches of quantum began in October 2014 during the Obama presidency, and in July 2016 John Holdren issued in the report “Advancing Quantum Information Science Report: National Challenges and Opportunities” , followed by a working meeting in October of the same year . John Holdren’s successor Kelvin Droegemeier, meteorologist, has just been appointed by Donald Trump.
Holdren’s 2016 report was not a plan but rather an inventory. In almost all countries, quantum splitting is done in four parts: quantum communication, quantum metrology, quantum computing and quantum simulators; the distinction between quantum and quantum simulators is subtle. The federal state finances start-up research projects with funding from the SBIR program, one of the components of the famous Small Business Act. This concerns in particular Axion Technologies which have created a random number generator competing with those of the Swiss IDQ.
In China, as with many technological sectors, various announcements have been made about ambitions for the quantum sector. China has also embarked on efforts in cryptography, telecommunications, simulation and quantum computing.
This investment was taken over by the executive in 2013 with the involvement of Xi Jinping. By 2015, Xi Jinping was integrating quantum communication into the country’s scientific priorities. Quantum computing was integrated into the priorities of the 13th plan covering the period 2016-2020. A China Quantum Roadmap was released in 2016  . Amounts invested in quantum were respectively $160M in the 11th plan covering the period 2006-2010, $800M in the 12th plan covering 2011-2016 and $320M in the 13th plan starting in 2016, supplemented by $640M of financing of the regions. Total funding for public quantum research since 2006 is therefore close to $2B. Since then, the most ambitious project is the announcement of a 10 billion dollar research center which will open in 2020: the National Laboratory for Quantum Information Sciences, located in Hefei, about 500km to the west of Shanghai. This laboratory will focus on quantum computing and metrology, for both military and civil applications.
Until now, the most active entity in computing appeared to be the University of Science and Technology of China, from the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). It announced that it had prepared and measured the state of 600 pairs of entangled qubits in 2016  and then developed quantum gates with a low error rate. It is difficult to assess the value of having 600 pairs of qubits if they are not interconnected. In 2017, this same laboratory announced the realisation of a test system of 10 entangled superconducting qubits in aluminum and sapphire . The error rate would be high at 0.9% for two-qubit doors. The leadership of this laboratory seems settled by researcher Jian-Wei Pan. His team plans to create a universal quantum computer based on 50 qubits by 2023! Forecasts are that it will take 30 to 50 years for a universal quantum computer to emerge.
The UK mobilised first in Europe, starting in 2013 with the UK National Quantum Technologies Programme Plan Current and Future Opportunities  by Derek Gillespie, and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council  – a non-governmental organisation funded by the public and under the supervision of the executive. The UK plan targets all the usual quantum markets: metrology, computation, security and medical imaging. The progress report of 2015  shows that the approach is relatively symbolic with modest public amounts invested, of the order of €100M spread over several years and several hubs of innovation. The initial plan was to invest £270M over 5 years with the objective of enhancing the value of research in start-ups as quickly as possible. The UK government is mainly concerned with the transfer of technologies from laboratories to companies.
The UK plan provides for the creation of a network of innovation hubs in quantum, with the usual topics: metrology (with the Universities of Birmingham, Glasgow, Nottingham, Southampton, Strathclyde and Sussex), quantum telecommunications and quantum computing. It stands apart from other plans with a preemptive effort in the training, with the PhD students being funded at $210 over two years. On the research side, many laboratories are involved in quantum, notably in Oxford (with the NQIT hub, on computing and security and QuOpaL – Quantum Optimization and Machine Learning funded by Nokia and Lockheed Martin), Cambridge (Center for Quantum Information and Foundations, which works on the physical part as mathematics of quantum), Glasgow (with the Quantic hub, specialized in imaging), York (with a hub on quantum communication, so on QKD) and Bristol (Quantum Engineering Center for Doctoral Training, focused on training as well as photonics). On the entrepreneurial side, we can mention Oxford Instruments (cryogenics), Oxford Quantum Circuits (quantum motion superconductors), Quantum Motion Technologies (CMOS qubits), Cambridge Quantum Computing (operating system, software, and services), TundraSystems (photonic qubits) and River Lane Research (software). However, no major UK Company seems to be particularly invested in quantum computing yet.
Quantum is also an area where the European Union is mobilised collectively. Initiated in 2016, a “flagship project” that brings together the entities listed above was launched in 2016 and was formally launched in 2018 to fund collaborative research on all aspects of quantum information: metrology, communications, computing and quantum simulation.
It is theoretically endowed with €1.2 billion for the development and diffusion programs of quantum technologies, spread over 10 years (mostly because budgets have not been allocated at this level by the European Union). The flagship mainly focused on the fundamental physical layers of quantum computing. It is unfortunate that it does not take into account the algorithmic and software dimensions of quantum computing, which is an area where Europe could stand out. The European approach is in a traditional way focused on the funding of collaborative research programs with the administrative burden that this generates.
At the same time, many American industrialists collaborate with European laboratories. Microsoft has recruited at the University of Delft quantum specialists, including topological qubits. Intel has also looked in Delft. IBM has some of its quantum teams based in its research lab in Zurich, near ETH Zurich, which is home to a number of quantum scientists. Here we have the reproduction of a fairly classical scenario with a European research excellence that is transformed into products via the major American players. The relative weight of the contribution of US research laboratories to European laboratories to American actors is dependent on the actors, in essence it seems weaker for Microsoft than for Google and IBM.
In the academic sphere, Germany comes third in the world in terms of scientific publications in the quantum computing sector, after the US and China and ahead of the United Kingdom, the United States and Japan. This obviously does not translate into an entrepreneurial ecosystem on the field nor by any particular action from the country’s major digital players, except perhaps with Infineon, Siemens’ semiconductor spin-off, which is interested in quantum cryptography. This syndrome is similar in France with a fairly active research on the subject but a sluggish private sector, with the notable exception of Atos. This is linked to the traditional difference between research and companies. The absence of major digital players in Europe able to take the baton of research is penalising progress. Additionally, the fabric of startups is not well funded and therefore cannot bet on the long term as the North American counterpart funds. D-Wave was launched in 1999, produced its first qubit in 2007, and commercialised its first quantum computers in around 2012. This is far more than the average life of an investment fund. Europe is also active in organising scientific conferences on quantum computing, a few examples are: the QIP conference in January 2018 at the University of Delft in the Netherlands followed by the Quantum Europe 2018 conference on 17th & 18th of May 2018.
 The Economist (displayed in December 2018)
 The White House
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