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Monday, 28 November 2022

ICN2 participates in the future Quantum Internet research programme in Catalonia

by Virginia Greco

The programme, coordinated by ICFO and involving ICN2, IFAE, UB, UPC and UAB, aims to develop technologies for the future Quantum Internet.

On 23 November, the new European Research Programme on Quantum Communications was officially launched, in which six Catalan research institutes, including the ICN2, are participating. The initiative aims to carry out research on quantum technologies with the ultimate goal of being applied in the future European Quantum Internet. 15M€ have been allocated to the project, over the next three years, of which 9.7 M€ funded by the European Union Recovery and Resilience Mechanism, through the Ministry of Science and Innovation, and 5.3M€ by the Generalitat de Catalunya, through the Department of Research and Universities.

The institutions involved in the program are ICFO - the Institute of Photonic Sciences, the Catalan Institute of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (ICN2), the Institute of High Energy Physics (IFAE), the University of Barcelona (UB), the Polytechnic University of Catalonia (UPC) and the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB).

During the launch event, ICFO researcher Prof. Valerio Pruneri, leader of the European Quantum Communications programme and general coordinator of the "Quantum Communication" project, introduced the main objectives. The strategic lines of the programme were also presented, emphasizing the lines of action and the different subprojects that will be developed regarding the software and hardware arenas within the framework of this initiative. Then, several transversal projects were discussed, which may be the first steps in achieving considerable synergies and future collaborations at a European level.

The implementation of this project is a clear example of how advanced this area of ​​knowledge is, a basis on which the foundations of major European initiatives are being laid. This is the case of EuroQCI (European Quantum Communications Infrastructure), whose objective is to build a quantum communications infrastructure in Europe, through both terrestrial quantum connections and satellite connections to cover great distances and span the entire continent.

In the short run, quantum communications will be key to telecommunications, specifically in the field of cybersecurity, to offer an additional security layer to the currently existing technologies for transmission of data and information over the Internet. The ultimate goal is the implementation of the so-called Quantum Internet, which will connect all kinds of quantum systems, such as computers, processors, simulators and sensors, through a network capable of distributing rigorously quantum resources –such as the quantum entanglement–, through a conventional telecommunications network reinforced with quantum elements.

About the programme

The main objective of the programme is the development of concepts and technologies that are currently not commercially available, in communications, computing, sensors and quantum materials. Various types of hardware and software that can be integrated into telecommunications networks will be addressed. Solutions will also be sought for those technologies that are most optimal for long distances, unknown at present. In parallel, work will be done on the development of quantum repeaters and memories to achieve quantum communication through optical fibers over distances of more than 100km, which represent a scientific challenge – with no currently known solution. 

At the same time, technology will be investigated for the ultra-precise distribution of time signals, for the connectivity of quantum sensors and distributed quantum computing, as well as the exploration of the properties of quantum materials. These are areas of knowledge in which the objectives set are in the medium run and for which continuous research development is required, given the enormous scientific and technological challenges involved.

Transversal lines have also been established, focused on the training of personnel: an effort that puts special emphasis on the capacity for entrepreneurship. The latter, together with the creation of an industrial ecosystem and the development of new networks for the dissemination and exploitation of the results, aims to effectively transfer the scientific and technological knowledge from the laboratory to the market, producing a significant and beneficial impact on society.

An important part of the programme is also focused on supporting technology transfer as well as consolidating and creating new technology-based companies in the field, by following the footsteps of companies created in recent years, such as Quside, Luxquanta, Qurv and Qilimanjaro, which seek to have a relevant role in the sector at a worldwide level.

The "Quantum Communication" programme is focused on research projects and will be developed in parallel to other programs, financed mainly by the European Commission, aimed at a gradual deployment of technologies for the creation of the Quantum Internet. The first phase of the aforementioned deployment will take place throughout the decade and will involve companies from the telecommunications infrastructure sector. In Catalonia, Cellnex Telecom has a leading role in the terrestrial sector.

The Complementary Plans of the Ministry of Science and Innovation

The Complementary Plans are a new funding instrument of the Ministry of Science and Innovation within the Recovery, Transformation and Resilience Plan, aimed at establishing collaborations with the autonomous communities in R+D+I actions whose objectives are to create synergies, align the execution of funds and establish common priorities for the entire region.
Read more on the web of the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation.


Press release by ICFO.