Emmanuel Macron presented Thursday a "quantum plan" of 1.8 billion euros to make France a leader in the sector.

These funds, allocated to research and industry, will be used in particular to develop a quantum computer, a sort of supercomputer that will revolutionize computing within ten years.


Will the quantum computer be a French innovation?

In any case, this is the course set by Emmanuel Macron.

Visiting Thursday on the campus of Saclay, in the Paris region, one of the largest research centers in the country, the President of the Republic unveiled the "quantum plan" of France: 1.8 billion euros out of five years to develop our own quantum computer, a sort of supercomputer of the future.

The United States and China have taken the lead but the project is still at the theoretical stage.

But this innovation, expected in the next ten years, will upset the scientific world.

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A computer governed by the laws of the infinitely small

The quantum computer is a computer that uses the principles of quantum physics to calculate.

"If we take the physical world that we know today, that we see, we are able to model a certain number of phenomena: how the planets turn, how our environment evolves ... What is more complicated, c 'is the modeling of the infinitely small, below the atom, "explains Xavier Vasques, global director of IBM Systems technology centers.

This subatomic world is governed by physical laws different from ours, the laws of quantum mechanics, the best known being the Schrödinger equation.

"Thanks to these laws, we can build computers that perform calculations differently from traditional computers", adds Xavier Vasques, guest of the




1. "Differently" means, in essence, calculations made in parallel, and not one after the other.

Therefore, quantum computers will be much more powerful and faster than those of today.

“Take the example of organizing a wedding. For the seating plan, if you have 10 people to seat, there are 10 factors and therefore more than 3.6 million possible combinations. In some situations, there are There are 500 or 1000 of them. And in this case, even the most powerful computers in the world will take years to calculate everything. With the quantum computer, we will be able to solve problems that are now insoluble. "

Applications for health, weather, economy ...

All of this is still theoretical since no quantum computer has yet been built.

Google has become familiar with "quantum supremacy" in 2019 while Atos developed in 2016 a quantum computer simulator, by definition still restricted.

But innovation promises upheavals in many areas: financial analysis, artificial intelligence, weather forecasting, nuclear, health, communications ... These are all strategic sectors that underpin the French investment plan, with the assumed objective of becoming " the first State to acquire a complete prototype of a general-purpose quantum computer ", which would be" a major scientific achievement ", Emmanuel Macron said.


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But it's not just theoretical research.

The benefits will be real for everyone.

“Today, to find a drug, it takes a few years. Even if progress has been made recently, we have seen it with the vaccine against Covid-19, we are unable to model a simple molecule with very little 'atoms ", recalls Xavier Vasques.

"A quantum computer will be able to model the way in which molecules interact, how they behave with each other. And tomorrow we will be able to synthesize therapeutic molecules and thus personalize medicine more and more. There will be as many treatment protocols as there are patients. . "

Complex machines and fans of cold

In contrast, the term computer can be misleading: not all of us will have a quantum computer in our office ten years from now.

It is a supercomputer, an imposing laboratory machine.

The prototypes don't look like computers at all, they are tangles of wires and tubes suspended from the ceiling, like high-tech chandeliers.

As it stands, we must therefore be content with simulators, the first stage of the French “quantum plan”, to familiarize ourselves with the functioning of quantum computers.

The second step will also present a technical constraint, since materializing a quantum computer is an extremely complex process.

Qubits, equivalent to quantum bits, which are the "language" of the quantum computer, only work in a cryogenic environment, where the temperature must be close to absolute zero, ie… -273 degrees Celsius.

To do this, we will probably have to wait until 2030.