This story is part of the special report In Search of Sovereignty, on Europes effort to support domestic technology.
Europe may have missed the big data revolution, but its determined to be ahead of the pack when it comes to computing power in the 21st century.
Thierry Breton and Margrethe Vestager, two top officials at the European Commission, have thrown their weight behind a push to build new supercomputers and harness the enormous potential of so-called quantum computing.
While traditional computers process “bits” of information that have the value 1 or 0, quantum computers are able to process bits that can be a 1 and a 0 simultaneously. These are called quantum bits, or “qubits,” and they allow quantum computers to conduct massive calculations in less than a blink of an eye.
That kind of processing power, EU leaders hope, will help Europe lead a new technological revolution based on industrial, agricultural or energy data.
Quantum computers could help Europe better calculate the molecules of fertilizers to make them more energy-efficient, create more powerful batteries, or create more lightweight materials faster, said Heike Riel, the department head of science and technology at IBMs research center in Zurich.
Europe has some catching up to do. The U.S. and China currently have the most supercomputers, and hold the most patents on quantum computers and technology.