The quantum technology market is taking shape

Quantum technology could create value worth trillions of dollars within the next decade, according to the recently published McKinsey Quantum Technology Monitor 2024.

For the four most important user markets for quantum computing alone – life sciences, chemistry, mobility, and finance – the Quantum Technology Monitor 2024 predicts a value creation potential of up to USD 2 trillion by the middle of the next decade. This will be accompanied by sales potential in quantum communication and sensor technology. As part of its ongoing market research, the strategy consultancy is analyzing the degree of maturity of each of the quantum industries, the investments, and the field of actors involved.

According to the latest Monitor, total investment in quantum technology start-ups decreased by a quarter to USD 1.7 billion last year. However, anyone who invests private funds in this complex field at this early stage should have studied the technology and its possibilities in depth. Despite the decline, the investment amount is therefore proof of great confidence in the future market of quantum technologies.

Public investment on the rise

Global public funding rose to a solid USD 43 billion, primarily as a result of new government funding programs in Germany, the UK, South Korea and India. According to the study, Germany has moved up to second place behind China in terms of public investment. The Quantum Technology Monitor also contains the positive note that 367,000 young professionals worldwide will have completed their studies in quantum technology-related subjects by 2023. More and more universities are offering specific qualifications. There are now 55 master’s degree programs and quantum technology research groups at 195 universities around the world. The European Union is ahead in this area as well as in the number of patents granted.

The German market in particular is shaping up nicely. The German government adopted the Quantum Technologies Action Plan in April 2023 with a funding volume of EUR 3 billion to bring quantum technologies into use in business, society and government institutions, and since then clusters and networks have been forming across Germany. The goal of the German government is to develop a powerful universal quantum computer by 2026 and catch up with the technology leaders in the USA, China and the UK in quantum technologies.

Coordinated approach in Germany

Since the German government made this decision, activities have also increased significantly at regional level. Clusters such as QuantumBW in Baden-Württemberg, the Berlin Quantum Alliance (BQA), the Quantum Hub Thuringia, EIN Quantum NRW or the Munich Quantum Valley (MQV) bring together research institutes, universities, start-ups and established companies with players from user industries, politics and business development in order to bundle existing strengths and drive forward the development of quantum technologies in a targeted manner. In order to formulate clear goals and analyze the existing basis, the clusters are initiating roadmapping processes. Business and coordination centers serve as central points of contact. The overarching goal is to efficiently transfer knowledge from research to industry. At the same time, the aim is to create educational opportunities at schools and universities, and to develop vocational training programs for the future market of quantum technologies.

Ultimately, the clusters set different priorities. Munich Quantum Valley promotes quantum science and quantum technologies in Bavaria with the primary goal of developing and operating competitive quantum computers. In parallel, the quantum network in the greater Munich area (MuQuaNet) is dedicated to developing, testing and researching a quantum communication network with selected applications as well as developing future-proof, resistant cryptographic processes. This concerns workable methods for quantum key distribution when it comes to quantum communication.

Nucleus for transnational quantum internet

“EIN Quantum NRW” has a similar focus. Forschungszentrum Jülich is working on a number of topics, including collaborating with the Siegen-based start-up eleQtron on the EPIQ project. This project aims to develop a modular computer that combines a quantum module with a conventional digital module. The abbreviation EPIQ stands for Development Partnership Ion Trap Quantum Computer in NRW. In this ion trap quantum computer, the qubits perform calculations with the help of a revolutionary microwave control system invented at the University of Siegen. Other projects from the network partners are dedicated to quantum optical coherence tomography (OCT) with entangled photons of different wavelengths and quantum-based measurement technology. A key project unfolding in North Rhine-Westphalia is aimed at establishing a transnational quantum network. The exchange of entangled quanta via a conventional fiber optic network between the first two Dutch network nodes in The Hague and Delft has already been successfully completed. The next step is to create a third node in Aachen. The long-term goal: “Ultimately, we want to become part of a global network as early as possible, which we are promoting with our European partners in the Quantum Internet Alliance,” says Dr. Bernd Jungbluth, who is coordinating the Quantum Roadmap NRW. At the same time, as a researcher at the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT, he is directly involved in setting up this nucleus of a transnational quantum internet: his research group is developing the key photonic components required for this.