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ICFO spin-out leads €7M quantum encryption consortium

23 Mar 2023

LuxQuanta joins forces with the likes of Telefonica and Thales in an effort to aid deployment of quantum-encrypted links.

LuxQuanta Technologies, a startup that was spun out of Barcelona’s Institute of Photonic Science (ICFO) less than two years ago, is heading up a new European consortium working to deploy quantum-encrypted communication networks.

Specializing in quantum key distribution (QKD) technology, LuxQuanta will lead a team including Thales and Telefonica, among others, working together as the “Quantum Cryptography Technology for Europe” (QUARTER) consortium.

The consortium has received €7 million from the European Commission’s “Digital Europe” funding scheme to increase the maturity and readiness of quantum cryptography technologies for deployment within the European Quantum Communications Infrastructure (EuroQCI) initiative.

QKD standardization
Alongside LuxQuanta, Telefonica, and Thales will be Spanish aerospace and defense firm Tecnobit, the Austrian Institute of Technology (AIT), and AIT’s cybersecurity partner Fragmentix.

Also taking part are quantum random number generator (QRNG) developer Quside, and the Dutch laser firm Chilas.

“The QUARTER consortium will work together to ensure a significant advancement towards the deployment of a quantum-secure network for Europe,” says LuxQuanta.

“Under LuxQuanta’s leadership, QUARTER aims to increase the maturity of QKD and its related technologies, while defining a clear industrialization roadmap to ensure their successful deployment."

The consortium is expected to be an active participant in QKD standardization groups, which it is hoped will see the encryption technology integrated into telecommunications products and services within the EuroQCI initiative.

By 2027, that initiative is aiming to have deployed a secure quantum communication infrastructure spanning the entire European Union.

“Proper protection of its network infrastructure is critical for Europe to prevent any type of malicious attack and safeguard its most sensitive data,” LuxQuanta said. “Within this context, QUARTER will play a crucial role in the development of cutting-edge European technologies for this implementation, ensuring its sovereignty in the vital domains of quantum communications and cryptography.”

Consortium partner Thales - one of Europe’s largest defense contractors - is also taking part in the Quantum Key Industrial SystemS (QKISS) project, where it is looking to develop a continuous-variable (CV) QKD approach that, unlike regular QKD, does not rely on expensive single-photon detector components.

CV-QKD product launch
While there is plenty of QKD expertise within EU member states, two of the most advanced developers of the technology - UK-based Toshiba Research Europe and Switzerland’s ID Quantique - are not located within the EU.

Vanesa Diaz, the CEO of LuxQuanta, said in a company release announcing the launch of the consortium: “QUARTER is made up of some of the most innovative and powerful businesses and organizations within our industry, and this investment demonstrates the importance of quantum technology within cybersecurity.

“Partnering with these specialist companies, we are truly excited to see what progress can be made over the next few years. The world is recognizing the need for quantum cryptography, and we must help it prepare for this new era of cybersecurity.”

LuxQuanta was established as a spin-off from ICFO in May 2021 by co-founders Valerio Pruneri - leader of the optoelectronics research group at the Barcelona facility - along with now-CTO Sebastian Etcheverry, and digital signal processing expert Saeed Ghasemi.

The firm has since attracted seed financing from optical fiber giant Corning and the system and software engineering company GTD, and launched its first commercial CV-QKD product at last month’s Mobile World Congress event in Barcelona.

• The Photonics Packaging and Systems Integration Group at the Tyndall National Institute in Cork, Ireland, has joined the European Quantum Flagship project, to support the development of advanced packaging solutions under the Quantum Secure Networks Partnership (QSNP) project.

Coordinated by LuxQuanta founder Pruneri, QSNP brings together more than 40 partners from across Europe, from academic experts to device foundries, startups, network and cryptography integrators, and telecom operators.

The €25 million effort will seek to develop and deploy "next-generation" QKD, integrate the technology within existing classical telecommunication systems, and explore new sectors where quantum technologies could take over markets that are not being reached by the current technology.

TRIOPTICS GmbHMad City Labs, Inc.Iridian Spectral TechnologiesAlluxaLaCroix Precision OpticsHÜBNER PhotonicsUniverse Kogaku America Inc.
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