Will Europe make same mistakes in quantum it made in semiconductors?

Market news |
By Peter Clarke

Europe could be about to squander a good position in the quantum computing sector, according to a report produced by Boston Consulting Group.

The report reveals that quantum computing is likely to generated between $450 billion and $850 billion in value over the next 15 to 30 years.

In its thorough tour of the sector it reflects that Europe is one of the leaders in terms of fundamental research and public support but it faces a lack of internal coordination, of private capital investment and a pipeline delivering a talented and trained workforce.

Even though the United States got off to a relatively slow start it is now clearly in the lead and Europe, the UK and China form the pack trying to chase them down.

A lack of ambition and capital investment prevented the UK and Europe fulfilling their R&D potential in the semiconductor sector in the 1980s and 1990s and into the current millennium. Boston Consulting Group states that lessons need to be learned from the semiconductor industry for Europe to scale its quantum capability and protect European quantum sovereignty.

“The EU has all the ingredients needed to succeed in the quantum race but needs to rapidly develop and deliver a comprehensive plan to turn potential into action,” says François Candelon, a managing director and senior partner at BCG, and coauthor of the report. “Europe’s history when dealing with tech revolutions has too often been characterized by early promise, failure to scale at critical moments, and then an expensive attempt to catch up. Policymakers need to learn those lessons fast. The good news is that the window is still open to create and execute a European strategy, building public and private capital powerhouses to invest in and scale European universities’ ability to train the next generation of quantum experts.”

While the report covers global aspects of the quantum computing race, including references to leading players in each country it also provides an action plan for Europe.

Action plan

The plan is easily articulated and is essentially the same as that which has not yet been pursued in semiconductors:

  1. align European member state programs to avoid wasted R&D funding
  2. find a lot of money and use it to close the “European investment gap”
  3. find even more money to build a talent pipeline of STEM-trained workers that starts at high-school and runs through to potential employees with postgraduate degrees.

This may seem almost impossible to afford, but BCG asserts that European relevance on the global stage will likely depend on its ability to master quantum computing in all stages of the supply chain, from R&D to manufacturing and in end applications. This because quantum computing will impact multiple industries central to global competitiveness and sovereignty such as aerospace, defense, pharma, and chemicals.  

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