Can Europe catch up with the US (and China) in quantum computing?

Our research shows that the US is currently the front runner, leading its peers on every measure, particularly in private sector efforts. A trio of pursuers – the UK, China and the EU – are also well placed, particularly in terms of government support and talent pools.

The EU is a leader in public investment and has adopted solid plans, such as the European Commission’s quantum flagship. But the US remains ahead in winning patents, launching startups and making investments, while China is hot on its heels. The EU is also among the world’s top talent, along with the US and China.

Emerging Risks. Although the EU appears strong, the reality on the ground is less positive as the continent presents several symptoms that could portend troubles down the road.

First, the EU has scattered its efforts across the continent without forming an interconnected quantum ecosystem. Although the Quantum Flagship program is designed to coordinate efforts, most countries on the continent continue to operate in silos. Our analysis shows that European countries, even at the national level, have not achieved the level of coordination between stakeholders and companies that countries like the US and China have achieved.

Second, the EU is creating a private sector with little or no ability to scale. European nations lack the kind of private investment that allows quantum computing startups to scale in the US, which is a venture capital powerhouse. Furthermore, the EU lacks big digital players like Google, Amazon and IBM that have the power to consolidate the quantum sector.

Third, the EU has a human market focused on developing academic talent. Although the EU has almost as many top universities focused on quantum computing as the US, BCG estimates that the latter employs two to three times as much talent in quantum technology companies.

Ensuring the EU’s quantum sovereignty. The EU, its member governments and policymakers should immediately implement bold plans to address the emerging risks and act on all three fronts to ensure the region’s quantum sovereignty.

First, the EU should link all quantum computing efforts of its member states and stakeholders at European level. Success depends on governments’ commitment to work together to advance the region’s quantum computing capabilities. The EU must prioritize public interventions while aligning its ambitions and policies across countries and stakeholders.

Second, the EU must foster the conditions necessary for the development of a scalable private sector. His startups were not intended to remain early-stage ventures indefinitely; Instead, they should scale and become digital giants. Governments and policymakers must work together to close the investment gap in the EU, particularly in late-stage funding, while supporting the creation of a market for quantum computing applications by providing incentives to encourage adoption by incumbents.

Third, the EU must create business-oriented quantum talent, ensure people leave science and support the development of private quantum technology initiatives. Accomplishing this task requires developing the region’s talent pipeline from start to finish and ensuring adequate funding for this purpose. In addition, the EU must strive to become a magnet for international talent.

Only by overcoming these challenges can the EU realistically hope to thrive in the quantum computing industry. Otherwise, the advent of quantum computing could ring the death knell for the EU’s competitiveness and technological independence.

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