aQCess: the “centrepiece of a transnational quantum ecosystem”

Among the 50 winning projects of the Équipements Structurants pour la Recherche Equipex+ call for expressions of interest, 10 involve researchers from Strasbourg, including one led by the University of Strasbourg. Its name is aQCess and it is one of the first public platforms in quantum physics. Guido Pupillo and Shannon Whitlock, researchers at the Institut de Science et d'Ingénierie Supramoléculaires, who are coordinating the project, tell us more.

What was behind the creation of project aQCess?

We are at a fascinating turning point in history, in which the first “quantum processors” that apply the principles of quantum physics to compute are now capable of solving important problems that are beyond the reach of conventional computers. Based on this observation, we wanted to set up the first facility of its kind on French soil, which would use the latest scientific and technological advances to make quantum computing more accessible to academics and industrialists, both nationally and internationally. Our initiative is a continuation of previous projects in Strasbourg including: two Écoles Universitaires de Recherche (EUR) and the new Centre Européen des Sciences Quantiques (CESQ), co-founded in 2019 by the University of Strasbourg and the CNRS.

What does the project involve?

Thanks to this latest EquipEx+ call, we obtained funding to construct a new type of computer in Strasbourg, housed in a state-of-the-art laboratory within the Centre Européen des Sciences Quantiques. The platform, known as aQCess (“Atomic Quantum Computing as a Service – aQCess”) will make it possible to carry out calculations that are currently impossible to perform, even with the biggest supercomputers, by using the quantum effects at work in systems of atoms trapped by lasers. A genuinely public facility dedicated to quantum computing, aQCess will mainly be a tool used for research, multidisciplinary teaching and training, but also by businesses and start-ups investing in quantum technologies.

Which laboratories are involved?

aQCess is spearheaded by the University of Strasbourg and brings together a consortium of researchers from five partner institutes in Strasbourg (ISIS, IC, IPCMS, ICube and IRMA), one partner institute in Nancy (LPCT) and one in Montpellier (ICGM). Together we will develop the key features of the project, from software interfaces through to the users in mathematics, chemistry and IT. aQCess also includes international partners, including two institutes from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) in Germany, the University of Vienna in Austria, Europe’s leading chemical company, BASF, and two emerging quantum “hubs”: the Institut Quantique of the Université de Sherbrooke in Canada and the Forschungszentrum Jülich, a global leader in supercomputing.

A first in France?

Quantum computing is a key strategic area for France and Europe. There are currently very few places in the world where such a “quantum platform” can be created. Most of them are in the private sector and there are none in France at the moment. For these reasons, as one of the first public platforms of its kind, aQCess will help to strengthen France’s competitivity in this crucial new field. The aim is for this platform to become the centrepiece of a transnational quantum ecosystem in eastern France. This vision is in line with the Stratégie Nationale sur les Technologies Quantiques (National Strategy on Quantum Technologies) presented by Emmanuel Macron on 21 January 2021.

Interview by Marion Riegert

10 projects involving researchers in Strasbourg

The “Equipements Structurants pour la Recherche” - ESR/EquipEx+ - associated with the third phase of the Programme d'Investissements d'Avenir (Future Investment Programme - PIA3) aim to provide French and foreign researchers from various scientific communities, as well as associated businesses, with high-level equipment to support French scientific leadership. At the end of 2020, 50 projects were selected from the 135 submitted.

See below the 10 projects involving researchers from Strasbourg:

  • Newgain - IPHC - Benoît Gall
  • Gaiadata - Eost - Frédéric Masson
  • aQCess – Isis – CESQ - Guido Pupillo / Shannon Whitlock
  • Tirrex - ICube - Michel de Mathelin
  • Continuum - ICube - Dominique Bechmann
  • Marmor - IPGS - Laurence Jouniaux
  • Imagine 2 - IPGS - Marc Ulrich
  • FranceCryoEM - IGBMC - Bruno Klaholz
  • Mesonet - ICube - Yannick Hoarau
  • LIFEOBS - Misha - Didier Breton
Établissement associé de l'Université de Strasbourg
Fondation Université de Strasbourg
Investissements d'Avenir
Ligue européenne des universités de recherche (LERU)
EUCOR, Le Campus européen
CNRS
Inserm Grand Est
HRS4R