Quantum Sensing as a Healthcare Game Changer: Strategic Outlook from the ‘Reverse Dependency’ Report

Author: Abhishek Purohit 


Recent developments in export control regulations across the US and Europe, including in the UK and France, reflect a growing recognition of the strategic importance of quantum technologies and the need for an ecosystem that is prepared for disruptions [1]. In response to the rapid advancement and sensitive nature of these technologies, nations have begun to tighten their regulatory frameworks to prevent sensitive technological outflows that could compromise national security. For instance, the UK [2] has updated its export control lists to include specific quantum computing and sensing technologies, aligning its regulations with emerging threats and global market realities. Similarly, France [3] has integrated stringent measures within their national security strategies, which involve scrutinising and potentially restricting the export of advanced quantum technologies. The U.S. Department of Commerce has also imposed strict export controls on Chinese quantum leader QuantumCTek [4], reflecting a strict stance aimed at preventing the potential misuse of advanced quantum technologies. 

Quantum technologies are increasingly recognised not just as a frontier of science but also as a pivotal battleground in global geopolitical dynamics. The EU and UK are actively striving to position themselves as global leaders in quantum technology by heavily investing in research and development, and by implementing strategic initiatives aimed at fostering innovation and securing a competitive edge in this cutting-edge field. The “Reverse Dependency: Making Europe’s Digital Technological Strengths Indispensable to China” report, spearheaded by Dr Tim Rühlig and a team of experts, delves deep into this context, emphasising the strategic importance of critical technologies, including a case study emphasising quantum sensing in healthcare led by team at QURECA and China Macro Group.  

Quantum Sensing: A Game Changer for Healthcare 

Quantum sensing promises to revolutionise the healthcare industry by enhancing diagnostic accuracy and enabling early detection of diseases through high-resolution imaging techniques like those using nitrogen-vacancy (NV) centres, optically pumped magnetometers (OPM-MEGs) etc. These technologies provide non-invasive diagnostic capabilities which are not only safer for patients but also significantly more cost-effective in the long term due to early and accurate disease detection. 

The report finds that the UK and EU hold a “first-mover advantage” in the commercialisation and application of quantum sensing technologies, especially in healthcare. European quantum sensing technologies are notably more mature than China’s, particularly in terms of application readiness and integration into healthcare systems such as Cerca Magnetic’s first commercial OPM-MEG system installations [5]. This maturity presents a significant opportunity for them to maintain and extend their lead in this critical technology sector. 

The strategic value of quantum sensing in healthcare extends beyond medical applications. By establishing themselves as indispensable in this area, the UK and EU can ensure not only their autonomy but also their influence over global standards in quantum technologies. This is critical in a time when technological sovereignty is increasingly seen as a component of national security. 

Investment in quantum sensing also aligns with economic priorities, driving growth through high-tech job creation and new market opportunities. As healthcare demands continue to evolve, especially following challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic, quantum technologies offer avenues to address these needs more effectively and resiliently. 

The advancement in quantum sensing also plays into broader geopolitical narratives. With China rapidly trying to close the technological gap, the report underscores the importance of strategic measures such as controlling technology outflow, enhancing research security, and reinforcing supply chain independence in the UK and EU. These actions will help mitigate the risks associated with unwanted technology transfer and intellectual property theft—concerns that are particularly acute in the high-stakes domains of quantum technology and healthcare. 

The “Reverse Dependency” report not only highlights the progress and potential of quantum sensing in healthcare but also calls for a concerted policy approach to safeguard and leverage Europe’s advancements. For the UK and EU, the development of quantum technologies is not just about innovation but also about securing a future where they remain key players on the global stage, dictating the pace and direction of technological and healthcare advancements. The strategic exploitation of quantum sensing capabilities in healthcare could thus serve as a cornerstone of the UK & EU’s broader strategy to maintain technological and economic sovereignty in an increasingly competitive world. 

For a detailed exploration of these themes and strategic recommendations, the full report is accessible at the German Council on Foreign Relations, Reverse Dependency: Making Europe’s Digital Technological Strengths Indispensable to China publication (link: https://dgap.org/en/research/publications/reverse-dependency-making-europes-digital-technological-strengths), providing valuable insights for policymakers, industry leaders, and technology strategists alike. 



[1] Purohit, A., et al.: Building a quantumready ecosystem. IET Quant. Comm. 5(1), 1–18 (2024). https://doi.org/10.1049/qtc2.12072 

[2] Government of UK, Department of Business & Trade, Notice to exporters 2024/04: The Export Control (Amendment) Regulations 2024 

[3] Government of France, Order of February 2, 2024 relating to exports to third countries of goods and technologies associated with the quantum computer and its enabling technologies and equipment for the design, development, production, testing and inspection of advanced electronic components, NOR: ECOI2401482A, https://www.legifrance.gouv.fr/eli/arrete/2024/2/2/ECOI2401482A/jo/texte 

[4] Matt Swayne, The Quantum Insider, U.S. Commerce Department Imposes Strict Export Controls on Chinese Quantum Leader QuantumCTek, May 11, 2024 

[5] Cerca Magnetics Limited, Cerca’s first commercial OPM-MEG system installation at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, July 2021 

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