Widely discussed and researched across the globe, quantum information science and technologies (QIST) is still a broad field in very many respects. The challenges in terms of science and application are extremely complex and require interdisciplinary efforts across the full range of technical sciences, from physics to mathematics and from chemistry to computer science and engineering. And let's not forget: the introduction and application of new technologies, especially in democratic, free states, must take place in the context of transparency, dialogue and trust – 'quantum' therefore also includes aspects of the humanities and social sciences.
This is all the more important given the very broad potential for new applications in the QIST field: Quantum computers could facilitate the development of new materials, chemicals or pharmaceuticals, provide solutions to complex decision-making problems (for example in logistics) or enable new insights in science (White Paper on Quantum Technology in Switzerland (2020), Swiss Science Council).
How well positioned is Switzerland in the field of quantum information science and technology? While China, the USA, Russia and Germany are the most active countries when it comes to quantum publications, Switzerland is ahead of Germany, the UK, Austria and the USA in terms of impact.
This is partly due to the fact that Switzerland has been investing in quantum research for over two decades. In 2001, two national centres of competence in research were launched at EPFL (NCCR Quantum Photonics) and the University of Basel (NCCR Nanoscale Science); in 2010, the NCCR Quantum Science and Technology was launched at ETHZ; and in 2020, the NCCR Spin Qubits in Silicon was launched at the University of Basel. The National Quantum Initiative launched by the Confederation in May 2022 builds on the corresponding investments made by the Confederation, together with Swiss universities and research institutes.
In mid-October, the US government and Switzerland signed the ‘Joint Statement on Cooperation in Quantum Information Science and Technology’, allowing the two countries to work together in what is perceived to be a promising field of research and innovation. In early November, the United Kingdom and Switzerland signed a memorandum of understanding on research cooperation that explicitly mentions QIST. This is no coincidence: strong partners for bilateral cooperation have found each other.
In line with the logic of ‘practice the latter without neglecting the former’, these two welcome steps are intended to complement future associated country status with Horizon Europe. They follow the Confederation's proven strategy of creating optimal conditions enabling Swiss ERI actors to work with international partners through suitable instruments, pursuing thematic interests and opportunities, and enhancing international competitiveness.
State Secretary for Education, Research and Innovation