PARIS—Investments in quantum reached all-time record highs in 2021 and are predicted to continue rising significantly, with multiple existing industries set to benefit and new industries likely to be created. Boston Consulting Group (BCG), one of the world’s leading management consulting firms, today published new research highlighting the scale and pace of global quantum computing, titled, Can Europe Catch Up With the US (and China) in Quantum Computing?
While the US is a clear frontrunner on quantum computing patents, venture capital, and volume of talent, the BCG report finds that the EU currently leads the way in terms of public investment. However, the EU lacks a coherent plan of action to coordinate individual Member State activities, has an underdeveloped private capital market prepared to invest in late-stage quantum businesses, and is not developing sufficient quantum computing talent to meet anticipated demand. BCG’s report highlights that the US currently has between two and three times more quantum talent in the business world than does the EU.
Without urgent action, the report shows, the EU risks repeating mistakes made in the semiconductor industry. Europe, together with the UK and China, is currently well-positioned in a trio of pursuers that are chasing the US. The EU is among leaders in public action in quantum and has put in place plans such as the Quantum Flagship, coordinating research efforts across multiple industries, and running pilot educational projects to give a direction to the developing ecosystem.
So what does the EU need to do to avoid repeating the mistakes it made more than a decade ago in failing to scale a continental semiconductor industry?
“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.”
An Action Plan for Europe
BCG’s report maps an action plan for Europe to maintain quantum sovereignty:
The COVID-19 crisis highlighted Europe’s capability to design and manufacture at scale new vaccines that proved essential to controlling the impact of the pandemic on the continent. Conversely, the lack of in-house European manufacturing capabilities for advanced semiconductors showed its dependence on a global supply chain. According to BCG estimates, the chip crisis prevented the production of around 10 million vehicles, which was particularly impactful for Europe, home to major automobile manufacturers.
Quantum will impact multiple industries central to a country’s competitiveness and sovereignty such as aerospace, defense, pharma, and chemicals. If Europe wants to maintain its global relevance as well as self-sufficiency in key economic areas, it must ensure access and master quantum capabilities in all stages of the supply chain, from R&D to manufacturing and end applications.
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