The €1bn European Quantum Flagship initiative launched recently and is now debating about how to spend the money. The major flashpoint is an apparent gap between what the academic quantum-science community wants to do, and what the flagship intends to support. Despite the flagship’s emphasis on fostering industrial applications, fully 90 of 140 proposals submitted were in basic science. Of these, only seven received the go-ahead – a far lower percentage than in other categories.
The fundamental problem was well articulated by Oxsana Mishina of the Technical University of Braunschweig, Germany. During the open debate, she noted that “basic science has a spectrum”, then explained that theorists, experimentalists and prototype developers all have different ideas of what constitutes basic science. The flagship, she suggested, was supporting only the last part of the spectrum.