August 18, 2023

European flagship project Quantum Secure Networks Partnership has kicked off

August 18, 2023

The Fraunhofer Heinrich-Hertz-Institut (HHI) takes a decisive role in the new European flagship project on quantum communications entitled Quantum Secure Networks Partnership (QSNP). Officially launched in spring, the consortium pursues the objective to develop and deploy quantum cryptography technology. The intention is to permit the ultra-secure transmission of information through communications networks. QSNP will run over a time span of 3.5 years until September 2026, equipped with an overall budget of 25 million Euros.

Digital communications is a key player in the ubiquitous connectivity advances of recent years. The increasing number of devices and systems connected to global networks - and the information transmitted amongst them - indicates the need to protect sensitive information. Raising awareness that most networks are public and may be easy targets for cyberattacks is paramount. One major concern for users is thus security. However, most current cryptography techniques used to secure information are based on methods that have become vulnerable due to the constant rise of computer processing capabilities.

Against this background, the QSNP project brings together more than 40 partners from all over Europe, ranging from academia, foundries, and spin-offs to network and cryptography integrators as well as telecom operators. Valerio Pruneri, project coordinator and appointed professor by the Catalan Institution for Research and Advanced Studies (ICREA) at the Institute of Photonic Sciences (ICFO) outlines the core research premise:

“We are thrilled to commence this innovative program. With QSNP, we are now moving out into the terrain where we will be able to develop further and most of all test the research development carried out in the first phase of the flagship. With the more than 40 entities within this consortium, we expect to achieve unprecedented performances and new designs for application-specific cryptography, covering the full chain from quantum fundamental to product development.”

In context, the Fraunhofer HHI extensively supports the QNSP project partners with expertise in photonic integration and enables the realization of photonic integrated circuits (PICs) for quantum communication. Especially InP-based single-photon detectors facilitate efficient detection in the classical telecommunication bands at room temperature. Moreover, the PolyBoard platform allows for the integration of components deriving from differing material systems optimized for the respective application, thus acting as a quantum-optic motherboard.

Concisely, QSNP will seek to fulfill three main goals. Firstly, the consortium will develop advanced quantum technology for quantum secure communication networks against the ever-increasing power of computers and the sophistication of algorithms, even for quantum computers. That is, the involved experts will work on the development and deployment of next-generation protocols based on Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) cryptography techniques that can help reduce the security assumptions needed for the networks. Furthermore, the team aspires to extend the range of secure communication and will search for new functionalities that potentially go beyond these techniques.

Secondly, QSNP will aim to integrate this innovative quantum cryptography technology not only at the component, system, and network levels but also into existing classical telecommunication systems and post-quantum protocols, assuring an additional layer of ultra-secure communications in this hybrid classical-quantum network. Finally, the project will apply all the know-how and capabilities acquired, utilizing the technology developed. This assemblage will be channeled into different use cases, mainly into delivering critical European technology for government infrastructures such as the European Quantum Communications Infrastructure (EuroQCI).

In doing so, the QNSP partners are interested in identifying the potential users, be it authentication, long-term secure storage, critical infrastructure protection, clock synchronization, or primitives beyond QKD, to provide robust solutions to industrial needs. In addition, the project will be a launchpad for future applications to exploit new capabilities, evaluate new cost-effective features, measure the simplicity levels of integration, and explore new sectors where quantum technologies could take over markets that are not yet reached by the current technology.

Despite the Fraunhofer HHI, high-profile partners include ICFO-The Institute of Photonic Sciences (Spain), Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (France), Institut Polytechnique de Paris (France), Technical University of Denmark (Denmark), Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (Spain), Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg (Germany), QuTech, at the Technical University Delft (Netherlands), Università di Padova (Italy), AIT Austrian Institute of Technology (Austria), Palacky University Olomouc (Czech Rep.), Instituto Superior Técnico (Portugal), Universidade de Vigo (Spain), Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (Belgium), Universität Wien (Austria), Université libre de Bruxelles (Belgium), University of Warsaw (Poland), University of Malta (Malta), Institute of Communications and Computer Systems (Greece), Universität Paderborn (Germany), Inria (France), Ethniko kai Kapodistriako Panepistimio Athinon (Greece), Insitituto De Telecomunicacoes (Portugal), Politecnico di Bari (Italy), Commissariat à l’Energie Atomique et aux Energies Alternatives (France), Technische Universiteit Eindhoven (Netherlands), Interuniversity Microelectronics Centre (Belgium), University College Cork (Ireland), QuSide (Spain), LuxQuanta (Spain), Micro Photon Devices (Italy), ThinkQuantum (Italy), VPIphotonics GmbH (Germany), Alea Quantum Technologies ApS (Denmark), Q*Bird (Netherlands), Cryptonext Security (France), Nokia Bell Labs (France), Nextworks (Italy), Deutsche Telekom (Germany), Telefónica (Spain), TIM S.p.A (Italy), Orange SA (France).