University of Chicago forges new bonds with European partners through Quantum and Sustainability conference in Paris

A group of the world’s most prominent researchers in quantum information technologies and materials science from the University of Chicago’s Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering (PME) and the Chicago Quantum Exchange (CQE) met with industry leaders in Paris to discuss partnerships and collaborations to develop solutions to some of humanity’s biggest global challenges.

The three-day event, held April 27-29 at the UChicago Center in Paris, aimed to build upon UChicago’s longstanding and numerous relationships with the European research community.

“It is clear that our most urgent global challenges are too big for any one scientist or institution to tackle alone,” said Juan de Pablo, executive vice president for national laboratories, science strategy, innovation, and global initiatives; Liew Family Professor of Molecular Engineering at Pritzker Molecular Engineering; and senior scientist at Argonne National Laboratory. “Challenges like climate change and the rapidly growing opportunities provided by quantum engineering require robust international collaboration, which these workshops are intended to nucleate.”

The UChicago Center in Paris serves as a hub for partnerships across disciplines and connects researchers, faculty, and students from UChicago and other European institutions.

“Our meetings in Paris represent a natural evolution of the University of Chicago’s historic and deeply-rooted relationship with the European community,” said Matthew Tirrell, dean of PME. “Given the grim outlook on climate change and the growing need for quantum technologies, it is more critical than ever that we partner broadly to address the significant global challenges that face humanity.”

Crucial issues related to the need for quantum technologies and a robust quantum workforce also were discussed.

“Global progress toward a quantum future will be driven by a skilled quantum workforce,” said David Awschalom, the Liew Family Professor in Molecular Engineering and Physics at the University of Chicago, director of the CQE, and director of Q-NEXT, a Department of Energy Quantum Information Science Center. “Collaborating across borders to train the next generation of quantum engineers is crucial in pushing the frontiers of this technology to address complex global challenges in health, information security, and the environment.”

Key speakers during the quantum portion of the event included Neil Abroug, Head of the French National Quantum Strategy, and Paul-François Fournier, Senior Executive VP of Bpifrance Innovation, who emphasized the importance of international collaborations and the role of entrepreneurs in catalyzing innovation for economic growth and technological advances.

Prior to the conference, UChicago held an additional joint meeting with the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), one of the world’s leading research institutions, to facilitate collaborative research projects in quantum information science and engineering, in which CQE researchers also participated.

The conference, held from April 27 to 29 at the UChicago Center in Paris, included representatives from Airbus, Abivax, Arkema, BMW, Capgemini, CEA, EDF, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, L’Oréal, Michelin, Pasqal, Quantonation, Quandela, Solvay, Thales, Umicore, Veolia, VeriQloud, and World Materials Forum among many others. CQE partners included Le Lab Quantique, P33,, and qBraid and Quantinuum.

Victoire de Margerie, Vice Chairman of the World Materials Forum, delivered one of the keynote addresses on Materials for Energy and Sustainability.

Pritzker Molecular Engineering is one of the United States’ fastest-growing engineering schools and the only one of its kind. Specifically created to address some of humanity’s greatest challenges, PME is designed around four themes rather than traditional departments: three problem-centric areas, including immunoengineering, material systems for sustainability and health, and quantum engineering. A fourth theme, Arts, Sciences and Technology, explores the meeting point between two forms of inquiry—scientific and artistic—and public communication.

The Chicago Quantum Exchange is a UChicago-based organization dedicated to convening leading researchers and innovative industry partners to advance the science and engineering of quantum information, train the next generation of quantum scientists and engineers, and drive the quantum economy. CQE members joining the conference included representatives from UChicago, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The Paris events were organized in coordination with the University of Chicago International Institute of Research in Paris (UC-IIRP), a research group embedded within the UChicago Center in Paris charged with building partnerships and supporting research collaborations extending throughout Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. Since its inception in 2003, the UChicago Paris Center has thrived as an international meeting point for dialogue and scientific exchange. The center recently announced the construction of a new, larger facility designed by Studio Gang that will open its doors in Spring 2024.

“The Pritzker School for Molecular Engineering played a leading role in organizing the new IIRP and, with its broad European connections, will be essential in assuring the success of this new institute for research,” said Robert Morrissey, Benjamin Franklin Professor of French Literature at UChicago, executive director of the France Chicago Center, and chair of the IIRP creation faculty executive committee. “This conference lays the foundations for our institute and demonstrates the remarkable impact it will have when it launches in Spring 2024.”

Additional support for the conference was provided by the France Chicago Center, a Chicago-based organization dedicated to fostering ties between the University of Chicago and France, originally one of the 16 “Centers of Excellence” of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Centres Pluridisciplinaires program. Other institutions in the program include Yale and Stanford University.

For more detail, or to view a full list of workshop participants, click here.