A combined investment of €3m in the CoQREATE (Convergent Quantum REsearch Alliance in TElecommunications) US-Ireland R&D Partnership has been announced to investigate technologies that will form the foundations of a quantum internet. 

The investment represents a joint research and development partnership between the United States of America, Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, spanning four large research centres and will fund at least ten research positions.The programme will be co-funded by the US National Science Foundation, Science Foundation Ireland, and the Northern Ireland Department for the Economy.

Provide connectivity

With the rapid development of quantum computers, there is a need to develop a quantum internet to provide connectivity between quantum computers over short and long distances.

Quantum computers have the potential to perform many computing tasks faster than classical computers, in some cases solving problems that are impossible for classical computers to solve with today’s computing power. This includes solving problems in a wide range of technologies such as higher energy density batteries and better carbon capture materials that will be valuable tools to address climate change.

Linking quantum computers together over a quantum internet will enable distributed quantum computing with even greater computational power compared to individual quantum computers. A quantum internet would also enable distributed quantum applications that promise to enhance cybersecurity and achieve higher resolution sensing.

As an integral part of future communications, this quantum internet will need to co-exist and interoperate with current or ‘classical’ networks that we use today – both for its own operation as well as to bring value to real world problems.

The CoQREATE project creates a unique multi-national collaborative environment that brings together expertise across the emerging quantum technologies and classical networking technologies. It seeks to draw connections to and learn from today’s networks in order to accelerate the creation of a quantum internet.

'Shape how the quantum and classical networks will come together'

Prof Dan Kilper, director of the CONNECT SFI Research Centre, and professor of future communication networks at Trinity College Dublin, said: “CQN and QTeQ are global leaders in pioneering the quantum internet and this project enables our CONNECT researchers in Ireland, working at the forefront of classical internet technologies, to begin to shape how the quantum and classical networks will come together.

"It will also accelerate the transition of quantum technologies from basic science to engineered systems. And it’s especially important for us that the project considers the broader societal dimensions of these technologies to help build an inclusive and human centred foundation for the quantum internet.”

Professor Saikat Guha, PhD director of the National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center for Quantum Networks (CQN) ) in the USA, said: “The NSF-funded Engineering Research Center (ERC), Center for Quantum Networks (CQN), led by the University of Arizona, is proud to lead this collaboration between CQN – a center focused on developing technologies to enable the quantum internet, the Ireland-based CONNECT Center focused on future networks broadly, and the Northern Ireland based  QTeQ focused on quantum algorithms and machine learning, to enable foundational research on coexistence and control of quantum and classical networks.

"CoQREATE research will range from devices, components and novel photonic packaging techniques to network algorithms and protocols. Unique to this Center-to-Center (C2C) program will be research on socio-technical convergence to bring a broader social perspective to the programme.” 

Professor Ryan Camacho, PhD, Brigham Young University, who will lead the research programme for the NSF-ERC Center for Quantum Networks (CQN), said: “When I visited the CONNECT Centre in Dublin earlier this year it was immediately clear that we needed to collaborate.  

Photonic packaging

"I’m quite impressed with their capabilities, including classical networking, photonic packaging and other technologies that will add tremendous value to our network testbeds.  These will be critical for future quantum networks, and I look forward to working with our colleagues in Ireland and Northern Ireland.”    

Professor Mauro Paternostro, head of the School of Mathematics and Physics at Queens University Belfast, said: "CoQREATE will build the research framework for the development of crucial building blocks and infrastructures for a future quantum internet.

"I am delighted to be part of this major initiative, through my Quantum Technology group (QTeQ) and the School of Mathematics and Physics, which will put Queen's University Belfast right at the centre of a groundbreaking effort to revolutionise the way we communicate and process information.

"QTeQ has a decade-long track record of expertise in the development of the framework for quantum technologies and the identification of the resources enabling paramount goals such as quantum-enhanced communication. Through the generous funding of the US-Ireland R&D programme, CoQREATE will offer the chance to collaborate with leading groups in Ireland and the US towards an ambitious goal of enormous societal impact."

Nadia El-Masry, NSF program director for Engineering Research Centers, said: “The US National Science Foundation’s Center-to-Center (C2C) program aims to develop global partnerships where each international partner benefits from complementary expertise, facilities, and training opportunities for faculty, students, and researchers.

"NSF’s C2C support augments the Centers’ industry innovations, provides unique experiences for workforce development, and builds enduring collaborations among participating countries. The C2C for NSF’s Engineering Research Center for Quantum Networks will contribute not only to technical areas such as quantum memory, integrated photonics, and quantum transduction, but also to the development of ethical and data privacy algorithms that will impact quantum internet laws and regulations.”