Europe's economic activities and Europe's single market is dependent on well-functioning underlying digital infrastructures, services and data integrity, not the least for critical infrastructures like energy, transport, health, finance, etc. Current security of the digital infrastructures and services will soon be under threat of no longer providing long-term security. Confidentiality of data and communications, authentication, as well as the long-term integrity of stored data have to be guaranteed, even in the advent of quantum computers. Introducing Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) in the underlying infrastructure has the potential to maintain end-to-end security in the long-term.
Building an experimental platform to test and validate the concept of end-to-end security, providing quantum key distribution as a service. Proposals should develop an open, robust, reliable and fully monitored metropolitan area testbed network (ring or mesh configuration). The aim is to integrate equipment, components, protocols and network technologies with QKD systems and current digital security and communication networks. Where necessary, R&D activities can be addressed. The testbed should be modular, to test different components, configurations and approaches from multiple suppliers and benchmark the different approaches against overall performance. The proposed solutions should demonstrate resistance against known hacking techniques, including quantum hacking techniques. The testbed should make use as much as possible of existing network infrastructure (fibres and/or satellites), provide a quantum key exchange rate compatible with concrete application requirements over metropolitan distances (i.e. of at least 40km). The proposed testbed should demonstrate different applications and use cases of QKD (including for authentication), optimizing end-to-end security rather than the security of individual elements.
Proposals should include an assessment of the applications and parts of the infrastructure for which the integration of QKD is economically justified, as well as an assessment of the minimal acceptable key rate for each application and its total cost of ownership.
Proposals should bring together relevant stakeholders such as telecommunication equipment manufacturers, users, network operators, QKD equipment providers, digital security professionals and scientists.
The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of up to EUR 15 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.
For grants awarded under this topic the Commission may object to a transfer of ownership or the exclusive licensing of results to a third party established in a third country not associated to Horizon 2020. The respective option of Article 30.3 of the Model Grant Agreement will be applied.
- Demonstrating the feasibility of quantum communication networks.
- Validation of quantum network technologies, architectures, protocols, including broader cryptographic services based on QKD infrastructure.
- Interoperability of quantum and classical networks, as well as multi-vendor interoperability.
- Development of standards for QKD components, equipment and protocols.
Illustration Photo: A Wafer of the Latest D-Wave Quantum Computers (credits: Steve Jurvetson / Flickr Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0))