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ESQ-FP: Erwin Schrödinger Quantum Science Programme

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - ESQ (ESQ-FP: Erwin Schrödinger Quantum Science Programme)

Reporting period: 2018-05-01 to 2020-04-30

ESQ is hosted and coordinated by the Austrian Academy of Sciences (OeAW), financed by the Austrian Ministry of Education, Science and Research. It is operated in close collaboration with three ESQ partners, the University of Vienna, the Technische Universität Wien and the University of Innsbruck.
The mission of ESQ is a Fellowship Programme for excellent PostDoctoral research in quantum science and technology, as well as to support focused and highly exploratory research projects via a Discovery Programme. Funding via the MSCA COFUND scheme ESQ Austria has allowed elevating the Austrian Fellowship Programme to a European level, providing it with a broader perspective, and attracting and training excellent researchers in a field that will contribute to shaping the EU quantum research landscape. The list of achievements comprises research performed, submitted and published by these ESQ fellows with their Austrian affiliation and showcases their scientific productivity. All ESQ PostDocs and their projects are presented on the ESQ webpage: www.oeaw.ac.at/esq/home. The prime task of the COFUND programme has been to select and employ a new generation of experienced quantum researchers. For that purpose, an international and independent jury of seven prominent experimental and theoretical physicists from the US, France, Japan, Germany, Poland selects the candidates in two steps: first, based on their list of grades, certificates, publications and awards, as well as at least two letters of recommendation; second in a personal hearing in front of all jury members based on presentations of previous work, future work and an interview. The first two hearings took place at the Academy of Sciences in Vienna. The third selection had to be implemented as a video conference, because of COVID19. The details of the selection and hiring are provided further below. Every ESQ PostDoc has an ESQ faculty member as mentor and scientific host. They discuss science and career issues. All ESQ PostDocs return a Statement of Ethics Aspects as well as an Individual Career Plan at the beginning of their fellowships. All PostDocs receive detailed information on Soft Skill Training opportunities and are regularly updated by the ESQ office with new opportunities. ESQ organized network meetings in affiliation with other large Austrian quantum meetings, for instance related to special research programmes in quantum information processing. ESQ PostDocs presented 6 posters, gave 17 talks, and 2 invited seminars / colloquiums. They helped organizing 7 conferences or workshops, took part in 23 conferences and 18 workshops, organized 8 outreach activities and 2 workshops. They all contributed informative introductions to their research for the ESQ website. One ESQ PostDoc is writing a research blog, another one is currently setting up a new blog. ESQ PostDocs took part in and contributed to several teaching activities, giving lectures and/ or supervising bachelor theses. All ESQ fellows together contributed to three dozen publications, often in very prestigious and internationally visible journals, among them in Science Advances, Physical Review Letters, Phys. Rev. X, Quantum Science and Technology and others. One ESQ fellows published an online article in an Italian newspaper about his experience as PhD in Italy, his relocation to Vienna as an ESQ PostDoc. Another fellow published an article in the general science magazine ‚Spektrum der Wissenschaften‘.
Three calls were published in the period covered by the report, the first call in 2018, the second call in 2019 and the third call in 2020. All calls were published on websites by international Physics societies and international job websites covering the field, including Euraxess. In addition the call was distributed to many hundreds of colleagues in quantum research all around the world. ESQ invited experts in the field of Quantum Science and Technology to become members of the ESQ Scientific Advisory Committee (ESQ SAC). At the end of each call deadline all application documents were screened (for eligibility) by the ESQ office and possible referees contacted to ask for missing recommendation letters. These, together with the application documents were then forwarded to the ESQ Scientific Advisory Committee for review. In 2018, ESQ received 80 applications from 24 countries and 56 male and 15 female candidates were formally eligible. In 2019, ESQ received 37 applicants from 17 countries (29 male and 8 female candidates). 31 were formally eligible. In 2020, ESQ received 81 applications from 26 countries (67 male and 14 female candidates). The number of applications ensured a high competition for 5 open positions in each call. The ESQ SAC, a jury with seven international members, preselected candidates and invited those preselected to hearings before the ESQ SAC. 5 ESQ Postdoc fellows were eventually selected for each call.
Quantum Science and Technology is a rapidly growing field on all levels, national, European and world-wide. In many aspects it has also become rapidly growing interest by many large companies operating in information processing, computing, simulation and communication.
There is an urgent need in excellent training of young and experienced researchers both for science and many growing high-tech branches. ESQ is the national Austrian response to this need and the high influx of excellent applications from all around the world is substantiating this claim.
ESQ does not fund specific research subject but research personalities in a rather comprehensive research landscape. Austria is a small country by population and yet covers a vast range of topics in quantum theory and experiment and this on an internationally highly competitive level.
COFUND allows to train 15 excellent experienced researchers and provides them with an opportunity to grow personally, scientifically and to boost their career perspectives.
Since the start of ESQ (including the year prior to EU COFUND) 5 fellows have already completed the programme and accepted academic positions elsewhere or even started an FWF funded independent Young Investigator Research Group (1.9 Mio Euros).
ESQ started with a team of 27 hosts in all partner institutions combined. Due to the exceptionally supportive environment in Austria, the number of professors and excellence grant holders grew by about 50%. Following the ESQ general board meeting in October 2019, a total of 14 new professors or grant holders in quantum science were integrated into the ESQ faculty in Innsbruck and Vienna. This an impressive set of 40 ESQ researchers with new opportunities for training and growth for future incoming postdocs already in 2020.
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