Belgium rallies around Quantum technology

To mark the launch of Quantum Circle Belgium, Gate.31 spoke to Jan Sonck, Founder and Coordinator of Quantum Circle BE.

Jan Sonck, Quantum Ecosystem Manager
Image ©️Proximus

Who is behind the Quantum Circle initiative in Belgium? 

Last summer, at the request of my CEO, Guillaume Boutin (Proximus), I carried out an assessment of the quantum landscape in Belgium and realised that all the neighbouring countries already had very active quantum communities. I contacted them and discovered that they all had investment plans and substantial budgets, whereas in Belgium we had nothing. Proximus then decided to launch a quantum initiative, a challenge I gladly accepted as Quantum Ecosystem Manager! Over a period of 3 months, I held one-on-one meetings and identified about 15 public and private organisations that would be interested in the initiative. 

I called it the Quantum Circle (at the suggestion of ChatGPT! – he smiles -) because the circle refers to a non-hierarchical initiative where everyone has a say, and it’s a very constructive approach. Together we define the goals and missions of the Quantum Circle.

A Quantum community in Belgium driven by 20 partners

At the end of March 2024, we officially launched the circle! Since the official launch, I’ve already received 50 to 60 requests from organisations to become members!

The launch of Quantum Circle was announced on 22 March ’24 at the EU Quantum Technology Conference in Brussels. Image ©️Quantum Circle Belgium

Today we set to work. We don’t want to replicate what is already done elsewhere, our priority is to identify actions that are specific to Belgium. 

Short and medium term goals

In the short term, we want to inform the market (i.e. end users, including the top management of large companies) about the opportunities and possibilities of Quantum technology. At the same time, we want to inform and raise the awareness of the public sector and political representatives (regional/federal) about the challenges of Quantum. Of course, we need to mobilise these actors to find the necessary funding to support the activity in Belgium. 

With the help of specific companies – for example in the field of artificial intelligence – we will be able, in the medium term, to develop Quantum-based solutions for finance and other sectors, including cross-industry solutions! But I repeat, there is no need to create what already exists elsewhere (in another country). Our priority is to focus on what is specific to our country. If we decide that transport and logistics are strategic sectors for Belgium, we could decide to focus on them as a priority.

Recruiting Quantum Circle Belgium members: are you looking for specific profiles? 

If you want to succeed in a Quantum ecosystem, you have to be open to all profiles! We welcome new members to Quantum Circle, but our priority is to build a small community that remains under control in terms of management; each member has an added value and makes his or her own contribution. Joining Quantum Circle Belgium should be a win-win situation.

HPC vs. Quantum computing 

High Performance Computing (HPC) remains an unfamiliar concept for some professionals.  Isn’t the fact that the concept of HPC is not fully mature an obstacle to moving on to Quantum computing? 

HPC Image ©️Vlaams Supercomputer Centrum (VSC)

We want to work hand in hand with the HPC community in Belgium, which is very active. We know that the market is not always aware of the HPC infrastructures, its benefits and the related services available in Belgium. But this is not an obstacle; our vision is clearly to support Belgian HPC experts in their information and awareness work. We’re working together!