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Quantum Technologies and Space

The Patent Insight Report “Quantum technologies and space” is part of a series of our joint studies with the European Patent Office and in collaboration with the European Space Agency. These publicly available studies analyse global patent filing data to identify major trends and developments in specific sub-domains of the space sector.

In this particular report we address space applications of quantum technologies. Quantum and space domains have both become strategically important technology sectors for major powers around the world, including for European countries and the EU.

Primary uses of Quantum technologies in the space environment are in secure communications, in time and frequency transfer, and in Earth sensing and observation. In the patent filing analysis, the study considered three key quantum technologies that enable these main applications:

  • quantum key distribution
  • cold atom clocks
  • cold atom interferometers

The analysis of global patent filing data over a 20-year period (2001 – 2020) has yielded several key findings:

  • Space applications of quantum technologies are a fast-growing domain, with patent filings increasing by more than 400% over the last five years.
  • This growth is driven primarily by innovation in quantum key distribution, which accounted for the majority of the analysed dataset (78%).
  • At the same time, space applications of quantum technologies remain a niche segment, representing only a fraction of the overall quantum technologies domain.
  • Most innovations in space-related quantum technologies originate outside Europe, with the USA and China leading the global patent filings.


Article published in collaboration with:

The European Patent Office examines European patent applications, enabling inventors, researchers and companies from around the world to obtain protection for their inventions in up to 44 countries. The EPO is the executive arm of the European Patent Organisation, an international organisation with 38 member states. The EPO’s activities and budget are overseen by the Organisation’s Administrative Council, which consists of representatives of the member states.


The European Space Agency is an intergovernmental organisation with 22 member states. It is Europe’s gateway to space. Its mission is to shape the development of Europe’s space capability and ensure that investment in space continues to deliver benefits to the citizens of Europe and the world. By coordinating the financial and intellectual resources of its members, it can undertake programmes and activities far beyond the scope of any single European country.


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