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Clouds on Europe’s horizon

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To strengthen science and technology, the European Innovation Council (EIC) has set up Horizon Europe, a highly ambitious research and innovation programme that will run until 2027 and will include continuous calls for proposals. With a budget of more than €95 billion, Horizon Europe replaces Horizon 2020, an advanced version of the previous programme. The European Commission expects the programme to boost the EU’s industrial competitiveness and innovation performance, which is also closely linked to the environment, as it includes helping to implement the Paris climate agreement by cleaning up oceans, seas, coastal and freshwater areas, restoring degraded ecosystems and habitats, and preparing Europe to deal with climate disruption.

Yet the main aim of Horizon Europe is to make Europe a leader in market-driving innovation. The program will help to improve the overall innovation environment in Europe, including through the EIC Accelerator Programme and the strengthening of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIC). In this way, it will foster the integration of business, research, higher education and entrepreneurship.

But Horizon Europe does not stop there, as it has also set itself futuristic goals, such as the deployment of photon-based computing. Light particles, photons, have a big advantage over electrons. Unlike electrons, which have mass and electric charge, photons are massless. They therefore travel much faster – at the speed of light.

Light long ago replaced electrons in the transmission of data in communication networks – optical cables keep the Earth connected. But photons have not yet replaced electrons in computers. Horizon Europe has set itself the goal of making Europe use photons instead of electrons as semiconductors to make computers work better, safer and much faster, while using much less energy. According to the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIC), this could really revolutionise computing.

Horizon Europe is not losing sight of space exploration. One such project is SATAGILITY-GO2MARKET. The EU’s information needs, from climate change to economic and social change, play a crucial role in both day-to-day processes and policy-making. Satellites help to maintain this system, allowing Europe to respond in a timely and appropriate manner. Unfortunately, the manoeuvring requirements and slow manoeuvring speed of satellites can result in slower responses than necessary. According to the EIC, the SATAGILITY- GO2MARKET project offers a solution to this problem by developing novel actuators for better manoeuvring of satellites, allowing faster operating times and better connectivity.

As promising as Horizon Europe looks, many experts believe that the European Innovation Council (EIC) has been very far off the mark when it announced these goals.

Experts say that the sections on semiconductors and quantum technologies in the program are insufficient, in particular the analysis of links with important EU legislation such as the law on chips and recent developments in quantum technology.

Angela Garcia Calvo, Professor at the University of Reading, said: « The program identifies the main trends in microelectronics and disseminates information, but does not address important issues such as how to scale up the research and development programmes already developed in Europe and how
to integrate them into Horizon Europe.”

According to the European Commission quantum technologies, which are part of the EU’s sensitive data and digital infrastructure, represent the largest portfolio of the EIC in the digital and industrial section. However, the program completely neglects the fact that one of the best implementations of quantum computers and simulators are platforms using neutral atoms and ions manipulated by laser light.

Experts draw attention to the emerging challenge of the security risks associated with quantum attacks, where previously encrypted material becomes decryptable. As quantum computers outstrip the capacity of supercomputers, so the EU definitely needs a roadmap to prepare for future quantum attacks against encryption.

The European Chips Act is the EU’s flagship initiative to protect and boost semiconductor supply, which came into force in September this year. The legislation is a response to the global shortage of microchips. The shortage is due to the fact that microchip production is largely concentrated in Asian countries such as Taiwan and South Korea. The EU aims to increase its share of global semiconductor production to 20% in the next seven years. It is also a question how the European Chips Act fits into Horizon Europe’s ambitious programme.

EU Briefs publie des articles provenant de diverses sources extérieures qui expriment un large éventail de points de vue. Les positions prises dans ces articles ne sont pas nécessairement celles d'EU Briefs.

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