Ireland could become a world leader in the emerging quantum technologies market if a national centre is established, according to researchers from Tyndall National Institute in Cork.
Dr Georgios Fagas and Dr Emanuele Pelucchi concluded that despite a slow start, Ireland is still in a unique position to become internationally competitive in the burgeoning field, which some analysts have claimed could be worth trillions by 2030.
With Brexit looming, Ireland has an even greater opportunity to gain a competitive advantage in the sector, Dr Fagas said.
He said: “An Irish quantum program could become a bridge to the UK. There could be a link to UK quantum hubs to maintain knowledge and research exchange despite Brexit.
"This could be seen favourably by both countries as a win-win.
"Strengthening quantum research in Ireland would also mitigate reliance on current UK research partners who are part of our innovation chain for delivering solutions for Quantum Technologies."
A 2016 analysis in the UK estimated that the sector would create high-value jobs with expected turnover per employee to exceed £100k per annum
Other sources put the value of the global market to something between $3,000 billion and $15,000 billion by 2030, Dr Fagas added.
Quantum technologies apply quantum theory to significantly improve the efficiency of everything from medical devices to phones.
In their paper (below) “Positioning Ireland for the quantum opportunity”, Dr Fagas and Dr Pelucchi said the country was significantly behind countries such as the UK and the Netherlands, but could still catch up and even exceed international competitors, given the right investment.
The researchers said: “Besides the commercial potential of the sector itself, there are significant gains to be earned by applying Quantum Technologies in Ireland’s foremost industries; examples include: digital (machine learning, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity), pharmaceutical (drug design), finance (pricing, risk optimisation), industrial goods and energy (materials chemistry, compound selection), manufacturing (highly AI-efficient processes).
"Timely investment in such a disruptive technology and complementary skills, will maximise Ireland’s opportunity in utilising the current baseline to attract and stimulate substantial business growth."
Ireland's strategy should build on the Government’s commitment to ICT, and points to the need for a national centre for Quantum Technologies, according to the researchers.
They said: “In Ireland, there is an underlying quantum research and enterprise community that, given the right conditions, can gain momentum and thrive internationally as an attractor for investment and growth. Many of Ireland’s higher education institutions have research groups which are either directly involved in research in Quantum Technologies or their research has potential to converge with Quantum Technologies in the foreseeable future.
“Tyndall recognises there are demanding scientific and technological challenges to be overcome and short-term expectations are idealistic. Nevertheless, the progress in the last 20 years has been truly exceptional, and Quantum Technologies have already moved outside the mere academic environment, into the real world.
Tommaso Calarco, author of the Quantum Manifesto, which initiated the European Commission’s Quantum Flagship initiative, said Tyndall’s plan to grow their research activity in the field was to be welcomed.
Mr Calarco, who is currently the Chairman of its Quantum Community Network, said: “Their position paper enhances previous efforts of the research community to boost the field in Ireland and is very timely as we have been aligning forces, through the Quantum Technologies flagship, to take an ambitious journey that will secure European leadership in the undergoing technological revolution.”