(ScienceBusiness) The French President Emmanuel Macron recently unveiled a wide-ranging Quantum Plan, which was eagerly awaited by the French scientific community, but whose announcement was long delayed due to the health and economic crisis.
This plan is partly based on the report submitted in January 2020 by the member of Parliament Paula Forteza, CNRS researcher Iordanis Kerenidis, and former Safran CEO Jean-Paul Herteman. It emphasized the excellence of French research, but also the country’s lag in terms of investment, especially with respect to technology transfer to industry. The report included 37 measures – a number of which have been adopted – for defining an “ambitious national strategy”.
Similar to the AI Plan presented in 2018, the Quantum Plan provides for actions in support of research (especially for quantum computers, sensors, and communications), industry, and academic and professional training. It is financed by the PIA43 and the France Relance economic recovery plan to the tune of €1.8 billion.4 An “intensive R&D effort” is underway to identify technological avenues that “could lead to a market in the next five years”, points out Sébastien Tanzilli, Quantum Technologies officer at the CNRS and a member of the government’s task force.
The plan focuses on the interface between industry and academic training in quantum engineering. Based on a consolidated research programme, it seeks to support visible thematic ecosystems on the national scale. Through their CNRS-associated laboratories and those of its partners, large university centres have anticipated the Plan’s enforcement by initiating a structuring process in recent years.
For example, an “ecosystem for quantum technology”, ranging from philosophy to industry – in other words across “the continuum of knowledge and economic activity” – is being developed in the southeastern French town of Grenoble, through the Quantum Engineering Grenoble programme (QuEnG), explains Alexia Auffèves, a CNRS senior researcher at the Institut Néel6 and coordinator of the project.
“The national resources of the Quantum Plan will be a game-changer,” confirms Diamanti, for “beyond the funding contribution, the fact that the government is supporting French scientific excellence gives us legitimacy at the European and global level”. The researcher nevertheless favours procedures and funding instruments that are “light, so that research teams can concentrate on their work”, and hopes that the government does not exclusively support “important university centres, but the entire French ecosystem”.