Brussels refuses to collaborate with UK, Israel and Switzerland on quantum computing

The European Commission would like to exclude Israel, the United Kingdom and Switzerland from collaborative research projects on new quantum technologies for fear of intellectual property theft, reports Politico in an article published this Thursday, April 22.

States are worried

However, some member states are worried about this protectionist strategy. These tensions caused the cancellation by the Commission of a meeting scheduled for April 19, 2021. This was precisely dedicated to collaboration in sensitive technological fields with third countries.

This meeting, which brought together representatives of the 27 Member States, was part of Horizon Europe, the 2021-2027 research and innovation program, with a budget of 95.5 billion euros. It has been postponed until further notice, a diplomat told Politico.

preserve intellectual property

The initial plan, initiated by European Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton, aims to prevent the transfer of sensitive intellectual property to countries such as China. Since 2019, the EU and China have been negotiating an agreement to strengthen bilateral cooperation on research and innovation projects.

So far, this collaboration has been limited to a few areas in which there was “a strong common interest”, such as agriculture, food security and biotechnology, reported Politico at the end of last March. To strengthen these links, the Commission is asking Beijing to adhere to a series of rules on intellectual property, ethics and even access to R&D funds.

Collaboration is essential

Concerned about Brussels policy, Austria and Denmark sent a letter to Mariya Gabriel, the European Commissioner in charge of innovation, research, culture, education and youth. Both countries recognize the need to defend European strategic interests but underline the value of collaboration with partners. They therefore propose that non-European entities be excluded only on a case-by-case basis and on the basis of specific strategic justifications.

“In many cases, including trusted partners is very much in our own interest, as these partners are at the forefront in important areas of R&I. Their participation is essential for Horizon projects that will help to solve major challenges, “says the letter sent by the Danish government. His Austrian counterpart fears that this mistrust will generate costs “from the point of view of scientific diplomacy” and a loss of attractiveness for Europe because the excluded countries will turn to other partners.

Europe far behind the United States and China

For several years, the European Union has been trying to accelerate in the quantum field. By 2030, she hopes to have her “first advanced quantum computer”. But it remains very far behind the United States, which has the majority of industry leaders such as IBM, Google or Microsoft, and China.

The strategy of moving closer to other countries is therefore not such a bad idea in trying to catch up. In early March, Israel announced an envelope of $ 60 million injected into a project to build a quantum computer.

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