Information für die Wissenschaft Nr. 2 | 7. Januar 2021

New Major Instrumentation Initiative: Quantum Communication Development Environment (QCDE)

With this call the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) launches a new Major Instrumentation Initiative that invites proposals for the provision of Quantum Communication Development Environments (QCDE) at German universities in order to explore the scientific potential of this technology in research.

Two Major Instrumentation Initiatives with a common theme are started in parallel. Both aim at genuine quantum mechanics based methods that now have reached a level of technical maturity, which allows them to be applied to a broad variety of research questions, thus, justifying the label “quantum technology”. While both, the Quantum Communication Development Environment (this call) and Spin-based Quantum Light Microscopy (accompanying call) share some technical aspects, it is expected that proposals address exclusively one of the calls.

The present call aims to provide researchers with a Quantum Communication Development Environment based on commercially available instrumentation. Quantum communication has attracted broad attention due to the unique possibilities that the exploitation of quantum principles can bring – at least in theory. In recent years practical applications have been demonstrated in specialised labs with dedicated home-built equipment. The availability of commercial instrumentation for standardised QCDE opens the field of quantum communication for a much broader research community and paves the road towards quantum communication technology. This Major Instrumentation Initiative aims to provide researchers with access to standardised QCDE that allow for research on quantum communication hardware as well as research on system engineering, such as communication concepts and protocols.

The main objective of this call is the procurement of commercial instrumentation to be assembled at successful universities in a setting that allows for broad usage of the QCDE for participating groups. While it is undisputed that the operation of a QCDE requires in depth expertise on the instrumentation as such, it is expected that not only the labs that operate the QCDE benefit from this funding. QCDE may be used as standardised environment for research on individual components, e.g. new sources or detectors, but the construction of new home-built quantum communication set-ups, which operate exclusively with technology developed by the operating groups, is excluded from this call.

Major Instrumentation Initiatives address universities as applicant institutions. An application must be adequately supported by institutional infrastructure and a corresponding institutional concept (comp. project description template, DFG-form 53.101). The application should show how the QCDE will be embedded into the existing environment in order to promote novel research. The university must appoint a responsible spokesperson for the application (only one spokesperson is possible) who, in the event of approval, will be responsible for coordinating the efficient operation and successful use of the QCDE for quantum communication research. Applications must demonstrate the scientific and technical expertise necessary for the successful operation of the equipment and for the proposed research making use of it. Current and planned research projects which will benefit from the QCDE should be concisely described; however, funding necessary for the actual scientific research using the QCDE is not in the scope of this call.

In addition to the use of the equipment for the projects outlined in the proposal, at least 20 percent of the available time must be open to external research groups, who may have to contribute to the operating costs of the QCDE accordingly. It should be explained in the proposal how the operation and use of the QCDE is to be managed in a scientifically and methodologically efficient manner. In the event of funding, corresponding rules for operation of and access to the QCDE must be submitted to the DFG.

The applicant university is responsible to provide adequate support for the operation and maintenance of the QCDE. In addition to suitable space and necessary staff for the basic operation of the instrumentation a guarantee to cover the expected operating, maintenance and other follow-up costs has to be provided. The confirmation of this support, in the form of a statement by the university, should be enclosed along with the application (in a separate document). Nevertheless, it is possible to apply (as part of the proposal) for staff and direct costs dedicated to the specific aims of this Major Instrumentation Initiative for a period of up to five years, e.g. for assembling the components, validation and calibration work and/or for supporting external users of the QCDE. Funding for workshops and public relations related to quantum communication research based on the QCDE can also be requested.

Universities interested in submitting an application are encouraged to send a non-binding letter of intent by e-mail to by 8 March 2021, with the subject “Major Instrumentation Initiative – LOI: Quantum Communication Development Environment”. The letter contains the name of the prospective responsible spokesperson and a non-binding list of the groups, who will be involved in the proposal, as well as the intended application fields and the main required features of the requested QCDE.

Proposal Submission

Proposals must be written in English and submitted to the DFG by 11 May 2021.

Please note that proposals can only be submitted via elan, the DFG’s electronic proposal processing system. To submit a proposal in response to this call, go to “Proposal Submission – New Project/Draft Proposal – Scientific Instrumentation and Information Technology – Major Instrumentation Initiative“, and select “Quantum Communication Development Environment” from the current list of calls.

Proposals must be prepared using the project description template (DFG-form 53.101) and following the programme guidelines (DFG-form 21.7, Section I and III). These forms can either be downloaded from our website or accessed through the elan portal.

All documents need to be in English. Further, DFG’s rules for publication lists (DFG-form 1.91, version 2020) need to be respected.

The spokesperson must be registered in elan prior to submitting a proposal to the DFG. If you are using the elan portal for the first time, please note that you must set up an elan account by 4 May 2021 to submit a proposal under this call; registration requests received after this time may not be processed in time for proposal submission. Please make sure to select the correct Major Instrumentation Initiative call “Quantum Communication Development Environment” during both the registration and submission of the proposal.

Further Information

Guidelines Major Instrumentation Initiative (DFG-form 21.7, German or English):

Project Description – Major Instrumentation Initiative call (DFG-form 53.101, English only):

Information on the programme and on other Major Instrumentation Initiatives:

A letter of intent should be sent to:

Questions on this specific Major Instrumentation Initiatives can be directed to: