On December 5, 2023, the Spanish presidency of the Council of the EU issued a declaration to strengthen collaboration with Member States and the European Commission to develop a leading quantum technology ecosystem in Europe.

The declaration acknowledges the revolutionary potential of quantum computing, which uses quantum mechanics principles and quantum bits known as “qubits” to solve complex mathematical problems exponentially faster than classical computers.

The declaration was launched with eight Member State signatories (Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Slovenia, and Sweden), and invites other Member States to sign. By doing so, they agree to recognize the “strategic importance of quantum technologies for the scientific and industrial competitiveness of the EU” and commit to collaborating to make Europe the “’quantum valley’ of the world, the leading region globally for quantum excellence and innovation.

EU strategy on quantum computing

The declaration builds upon existing efforts to build quantum technology infrastructure in the EU, such as the Quantum Technologies Flagship that brings together research institutions, industry and public funders to develop commercial applications for quantum research, and the European High Performance Computing Joint Undertaking (EuroHPC JU) initiative to build state-of-the-art pilot quantum computers, both of which were launched in 2018.

Potential Impacts

The potential applications of quantum computing are wide-ranging and industry-agnostic. For instance, they could be used to enhance the analysis of large data sets, optimize supply-chain processes, and accelerate the development of machine-learning algorithms. While the technology is still nascent, its potential commercial impact is hard to overstate: a recent estimate by McKinsey suggests that the life sciences, chemicals, automotive and financial services industries alone stand to gain up to $1.3 trillion in value from quantum computing by 2035.

Given the potential applications, quantum computing could, in particular, have a significant impact on companies in the life sciences sector. To provide a few examples in the pharmaceutical R&D space, quantum computing could be potentially used to improve:

  • Drug discovery, by improving molecular design, predicting molecular interactions, and running molecular dynamic simulations.
  • Clinical development, by designing clinical trials, analyzing trial data and predicting adverse event reactions.
  • Diagnostics, by improving image analysis and reconstruction.
  • Therapy, by developing and optimizing treatment plans.
  • Manufacturing and supply chain processes, by optimizing them through risk modelling and data analysis.

However, the benefits are not without risks. Most significantly, there is a concern that in the future, quantum technologies may have the ability to solve the complex mathematical problems that underpin currently-used cryptography methods, posing a threat to modern encryption technology and cybersecurity.

It remains to be seen how the field of quantum computing will develop, and how its potential impacts will be seen and felt. Crucially, regulation will likely play a big role in managing its impact, both in the EU and beyond.

Covington is monitoring developments in this fast-growing area. Please reach out to a member of the team with any inquiries.

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Photo of Sarah Cowlishaw Sarah Cowlishaw

Advising clients on a broad range of life sciences matters, Sarah Cowlishaw supports innovative pharmaceutical, biotech, medical device, diagnostic and software technology companies on regulatory, compliance, transactional, and legislative matters.

Sarah has particular expertise in advising on legal issues presented by digital health…

Advising clients on a broad range of life sciences matters, Sarah Cowlishaw supports innovative pharmaceutical, biotech, medical device, diagnostic and software technology companies on regulatory, compliance, transactional, and legislative matters.

Sarah has particular expertise in advising on legal issues presented by digital health technologies, helping companies navigate regulatory frameworks while balancing challenges presented by the pace of technological change over legislative developments.

Sarah is a co-chair of Covington’s multidisciplinary Digital Health Initiative, and is the Graduate Recruitment Partner for Covington’s London office.

Sarah regularly advises on:

  • classification determinations for software medical devices, including on developments resulting from the implementation of the EU Medical Devices Regulation;
  • legal issues presented by digital health technologies including artificial intelligence;
  • general regulatory matters for the pharma and device industry, including borderline determinations, adverse event and other reporting obligations, manufacturing controls, and labeling and promotion;
  • the full range of agreements that span the product life-cycle in the life sciences sector, including collaborations and other strategic agreements, clinical trial agreements, and manufacturing and supply agreements; and
  • regulatory and commercial due diligence for life sciences transactions.

Sarah’s pro bono work includes advising the Restoration of Appearance and Function Trust (RAFT) on the classification of a wound healing product containing human blood derivatives, and assisting in a project aimed at improving regulatory systems for clinical trials of drugs and vaccines for neglected diseases in developing countries.

Sarah has been recognized as one of the UK’s Rising Stars by Law.com (2021), which lists 25 up and coming female lawyers in the UK. She was named among the Hot 100 by The Lawyer (2020) and was included in the 50 Movers & Shakers in BioBusiness 2019 for advancing legal thinking for digital health.

Sarah has undertaken several client secondments, including to the in-house legal department of a multinational pharmaceutical company.

Photo of Stacy Young Stacy Young

Stacy Young is an associate in the London office. She advises technology and life sciences companies across a range of privacy and regulatory issues spanning AI, clinical trials, data protection and cybersecurity.

Tamzin Bond

Tamzin Bond is a Trainee Solicitor who attended BPP School of Law. Prior to joining the firm, Tamzin completed her Ph.D in Chemistry from Imperial College London.