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January 9th: France will unveil its quantum strategy. What can we expect from this report?

What answers will we expect on January 9th, when MP Paula Forteza's report on quantum computing in France will be officially presented? The title of the report underlines its ambition: "Quantum: the technological shift that France will not miss". Does this title also underline the fact that France has missed out on other technological shifts?

January 3rd 2020 | 3214 readers

Paula Forteza, member of French congress
Paula Forteza, member of French congress
It is eagerly awaited! The "Forteza" report, named after its rapporteur, Paula Forteza, Member of Parliament for La République en Marche (political party of actual President Emmanuel Macron), should finally be officially revealed on January 9th. The three rapporteurs are Paula Forteza, Member of Parliament for French Latin America and the Caribbean, Jean-Paul Herteman, former CEO of Safran, and Iordanis Kerenidis, researcher at the CNRS. Announced last April, this report was initially due at the end of August, then in November, then... No doubt the complex agenda, between the social movements in France, and the active participation of the MP in the Parisian election campaign of Cédric Villani, mathematician and dissident of La République en Marche... had to be shaken up. In any case, it is thus finally on January 9th that this report entitled "Quantum: the technological shift that France will not miss", will be unveiled.

"Entrusted by the Prime Minister in April 2019, the mission on quantum technologies ends with the submission of the report by the three rapporteurs Paula Forteza, Jean-Paul Herteman, and Iordanis Kerenidis. Fifty proposals and recommendations are thus detailed in order to strengthen France's role and international position on these complex but highly strategic technologies. The in-depth work carried out over the last few months, fueled by numerous consultations with scientific experts in the field, has led the rapporteurs to the conclusion that France's success in this field will be achieved by making quantum technologies more accessible and more attractive. This is one of the sine qua non conditions for the success of the French strategy", explains the French National Congress in the invitation to the official presentation ceremony of the report.

The presentation, by the three rapporteurs, will be made in the presence of the ministers for the army, the economy and finance, and higher education and research. The presence of the Minister of the Armed Forces, as well as the co-signature of the report by the former president of Safran, already indicates that military applications will be one of the main areas of proposals, and possibly of funding. Just as is the case in the United States, China or Russia.

Of course, the report will go into detail about the role of research, and of the CNRS, in advances in quantum computing and communication. Of course, the excellent work of French researchers, in collaboration with their European peers, will be highlighted. And of course, France's excellence in these fields will be explained. France is a pioneer in this field, but the important questions are precisely what the next steps will be. The National Congress indicates that this report will present 50 "proposals and recommendations". Are we to conclude that it will be just a list of proposals? Or will we know how to move from advice to action?

These are our pending questions:

- The United States is announcing an investment of USD 1.2 billion, China perhaps USD 10 billion, Great Britain about 1 billion euros, while Amazon's R&D budget alone is USD 18 billion... how can a country like France position itself regarding the scale of these investments? To sum up, is the amount of funds allocated to this research and development in line with the ambitions?

- Mastering quantum technologies are becoming a geopolitical issue between the United States and China. Should Europe master its own technologies so as not to depend on these two major powers? On the other hand, is this not the return of a quantum "Plan calcul” from the 60’s? How can we avoid repeating the same mistakes? 

- Cecilia Bonefeld-Dahl, Managing Director of DigitalEurope recently wrote that Europe risks being deprived of the use of quantum technologies if it does not develop them itself. Christophe Jurzcak, the head of Quantonation, stated that it is not certain that France will have access to quantum technologies if it does not develop them itself. Is this realistic? Do we have the ressources?

- French companies currently invest very little in research in the field of quantum computing. With the exception of Airbus, the main feedback that we know of is in Canada, Australia, Spain, Germany, etc. Should we also help companies to embrace these technologies, or should we only finance research and development on the part of universities and business creators? Is there a support component for companies? So that technologies are not simply developed in France and sold elsewhere, but that France is the leading market for local developments.

See you on January 9th on Decideo for more details and our objective analysis of the content of this document.

Philippe Nieuwbourg is an independent trainer and analyst, a specialist in data analysis for... Know more about this author

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