10 Policy & Politics
Ecosystem & Community
29 April 2024Sonja Knols

Jesse Robbers on quantum technology as a national priority

Last January, the Dutch government issued its long term National Technology Strategy. This strategy identifies ten key technologies our country will focus on till 2035 and quantum technology is one of them. Jesse Robbers, our Director of Industry & Digital Infrastructure, has been involved in the development of this strategy from the start. Here, he explains its importance and the opportunities the strategy entails for the Dutch quantum community. 

How did the National Technology Strategy come about?

‘Back in 2022, I was asked to participate in discussions on the technologies our country should focus on for the next decade, because of my background in digital infrastructure, deep-tech and quantum technology. Together with a broad community of people from several universities, NWO, TNO, and several ministries, we composed a list of 44 key technologies, 10 of which were selected as top priorities toward 2035.’ 
‘Subsequently, for each of these ten topics round tables were organized where experts identified the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, and formulated overall national ambitions in these fields. As a representative of Quantum Delta NL, for the quantum technology chapter I explicitly advocated to not only look at our current quantum ecosystem but to broaden the scope and involve others. The National Agenda on Quantum Technology that served as a base for the Quantum Delta NL programme was primarily set up from an academic R&D perspective. Now, the time had come to also involve end-users and market parties, like start-ups, investors and end users, to explore different directions towards creating economic value from quantum technology. Even though QDNL initiated this from the start of its programme, the Netherlands as a whole needs to accelerate in this respect.’ 
‘These discussions resulted in the National Technology Strategy, which in fact is an advice from the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy to government, academia and industry about which topics to prioritize in the interest of Dutch innovation capacity and economy. ‘ 

‘In practice, this means that the ten key technologies mentioned in the strategy will be at the center of attention when it comes to strengthening international cooperation and economic developments in the field of quantum technology with specific international regions. And for the new Dutch government to come, it will act as a guideline on how to spend innovation budgets and develop new policies.’  

What does the strategy have to say about quantum technology?

‘To a big extent, it confirms the National Agenda on Quantum Technology, which I view as a compliment on our QDNL programme. In addition, the strategy identifies some bottlenecks towards commercialization, such as continuation of funding after Quantum Delta NL ends, skills development, and educating the required workforce.’ 

‘The strategy describes the joint ambition that in 2035, the Dutch quantum ecosystem will be worldclass, both in academia and in industry, and it will act as a magnet for international talent and commercial activities.’

‘The Netherlands is to be a model country when it comes to this technology, and within the European Union, we are to be part of the leading group, with a strong position in fabrication and commercialization. As part of this ambition, the aim is to continue existing knowledge institutes and initiatives like QuTech, NanolabNL and QuSoft, and to launch new start-ups and scale-ups.’

What does all of this mean for Quantum Delta NL and its partners?

‘First and foremost, the fact that the Dutch government views quantum technology as one of its top ten priorities means that our current programmes are guaranteed to keep getting prioritized. For all partners in our network, new opportunities will be created to engage in for example international trade missions and get access to (international) funding to help develop and sell their products and services.‘ 

‘As far as Quantum Delta NL goes, of course we will implement the ideas from this strategy in the next phase of our programme, which we are currently preparing. One of the topics we are contemplating is how to further develop our ecosystem to connect to European agendas and also attract industrial partners from abroad.’ 
‘In this next phase, we will make the shift from academic research to more industry. What can we do to create employment, develop demonstrators and make start-ups scalable?  
As a country, we will need to decide what direction we want to take with this technology. Do we want to provide the components for a quantum computer or are we going to build the entire thing ourselves? Will we provide complete quantum networks, or will we be the experts in how to secure them?’ 
‘In my opinion, one of the reasons why we are playing Champions League football in the quantum realm is that from the start, we chose to focus on specific topics and applications. A lot of the success also depends on the fact that we managed to bring together the right people, at the right time working on the right things at the right places, and decided not to compete but to join forces and contribute to a larger goal. I hope this strategy will act as a stimulus to keep up the good work and reach out to new partners who can make the Dutch quantum ecosystem even stronger.’  

‘The investments the Dutch government have made so far in quantum technology, for a large part through the Growth Fund, are already resulting in revenues, for example in the form of new start-ups, jobs, and strategic partnerships at an international level, and in attracting international businesses to our country.’

‘Hopefully, the Dutch government will decide wisely on the future of the Growth Fund, which can act an important instrument for the execution of the National Technology Strategy.’

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