There have recently been a number articles in the mainstream press that would lead one to the conclusion that the quantum race is limited to the U.S. versus China. (See here, here, and here). These articles are ignoring that tremendous impact that Europe will have in the development and implementation of quantum technologies.
To start, let’s look at some budgets. While the U.S. National Quantum Initiative Act is providing funding of $1.2 billion over a five year period, funding for quantum research in the U.S. from the private sector is at least as large as the government investment and significantly greater than any other country. The private sector funding includes venture capital investments in U.S. companies as well as corporate funding from large companies including IBM, Microsoft, Google and others. So although the private sector amounts are not made public, our estimate is that total funding including both government and private sector is in the $2-$4 billion range over a 5 year period.
Although the China quantum investment of $10 billion has been widely reported, this figure has never been officially confirmed nor has any breakdown been released on how this money will be spent. The money will not all be spent on quantum technology R&D. It is our belief that a significant amount of China’s quantum investments will be devoted to infrastructure. Some of the money will be devoted toward building a brand new Quantum Information Science Center in Hefei and additional money will be devoted towards building out China’s quantum communications network. We also think that the mixture of China’s quantum investments may be more heavily weighted towards quantum communications over quantum computing.
Meanwhile, multiple countries in Europe, as well as the European Commission, are making heavy quantum investments. The European Commission has allocated about $1.1 billion for its Quantum Flagship program. In addition, the individual European countries have created additional budgets to support quantum research including the UK at $1.3 billion, France at $2.2 billion, Germany at $3.1 billion, the Netherlands at $177 million, and smaller amounts in Italy, Spain, Finland, Austria and Switzerland. Although the European private sector investments are not as significant as those in the U.S., it is still present. So if you look at total European investments in quantum technologies, it will exceed $8 billion over a five year period.
But looking at raw investment numbers provides an incomplete picture, particularly when there aren’t many details on how it is broken out. To look at another metric, one can look at the Top 500 listing of high performance classical computers to see where they are located. It is likely that users who are familiar with high performance computing, will also be early adopters of quantum computing. In this list, it shows that of the 500 HPC systems, the number of computers in each areas show 214 in China, 113 in the U.S., and 97 in Europe. And if you rank the Top 500 computers by performance share, the numbers show 27.5% of the total gigaflops are in the U.S., 23.3% in China and 18.3% in Europe.
One of the things that will help U.S. companies as they compete for quantum computing market share is the U.S. strength in cloud computing. Not only will the majority of quantum computing processing be delivered via the cloud, but it is likely that those enterprises that were some of earliest users of cloud technology will also be early users of quantum computing. The companies that dominate providing cloud services in the U.S. include Amazon AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google and IBM. And many European enterprises also take advantage of cloud services provided by these U.S. headquartered company. In China, the dominant cloud services provider is Alibaba.
Nonetheless, we expect that Europe will be a large player in quantum computing. In reading through several of the quantum computing national plans they imply goals of obtaining a much larger market share in quantum computing than these countries previously had achieved in classical computing. It will be interesting to see how this turns out and one should not gloss over what is happening in quantum Europe. Because in the end, it could turn out that Europe might eventually surpass the U.S., China, or both countries in the race to be the leader in quantum computing.
January 23, 2021