Hamburg's quantum network off to successful start
Hamburg has the potential to become one of the world's leading quantum computing regions, according to those behind the Quantum Innovation Capital (QUIC) which celebrated its official launch Wednesday (May 11, 2022). Based at the Artificial Intelligence Center ARIC e.V., the main point of contact and co-ordinator of all AI-related issues, QUIC is Hamburg's latest networking platform for movers and shakers in science, business and politics. Emphasis is on training and developing talented professionals, R&D, as well as identifying operational applications early and preparing to use the finished technology. This may be the case in ten to 15 years, according to a conservative estimate, said Professor Henning Moritz, Institute of Laser Physics at the University of Hamburg, but may occur even sooner as the developments in quantum computing research are literally explosive at present. Interim results are already being transferred to actual applications. "And 15 years of development is basically nothing," said Jörn Messner, Lufthansa Industry Solutions, referring to the emerging, highly-diverse fields of application in view of the leaps and bounds in the technology and not least in aviation.
Germany, U.S, and China soon on an equal footing?
Michael Westhagemann, Senator for Economics, noted: "There is no time to lose and the name, QUIC is apt. We need to jump into applications as quickly as possible and show what quantum technology can do with concrete products." If research is fast enough, Germany could certainly stay apace with the United States and China, both of which are digital heavyweights. The research expertise is available, according to Professor Henning Moritz, Dr.-Ing. Timm-Giel, President of the Technical University of Hamburg, and Dr Eva Gümbel, State Councillor for Science: "We have already put Hamburg on the international research map with Science City Bahrenfeld. We are adding another extremely important topic via QUIC."
Anything possible thanks to qubits
Given the sheer unlimited opportunities, the topic is hugely important. "Everything is possible. That's the mysterious thing about quantum physics. A qubit, unlike a classical bit, does not have to decide on 0 or 1. It can be in both states simultaneously and everything in between," according to Moritz. That forms the basis for the enormous computing power that allows quantum computers to perform highly complex tasks in seconds or minutes, rather than years. Timm-Giel added: "That can involve tasks to counter climate change or to create resilient networks in renewable energies. But there are also diverse optimisation problems in mobility, logistics or maritime systems that are particularly suitable for quantum computing." Essential basic research is also being conducted at DESY. "We are now concentrating on three areas. The research and development of applications for quantum computers, quantum materials and quantum sensors," according to Professor Kerstin Borras, Senior Scientist at DESY. Hamburg is well equipped for this task as it is both an excellent centre of science and an attractive business location.
Ecosystem along value chain
The Otto Group, for instance, is also eyeing the potential of quantum computing. "We are always looking at which innovative technologies could become relevant for us. Being able to try out quantum technology with regard to interesting applications in research collaborations like QUIC is important," said Dr Hanna Huber, Vice President Technology & Governance at the Otto Group. All those attending the launch agreed on the importance of close co-operation to becoming a stronghold of quantum computing. "We have to build a sustainable ecosystem along the quantum computing value chain in Hamburg and then take the results out into the world," said Alois Krtil, Managing Director of ARIC. Such co-operation can and must unfold beyond Hamburg's borders. Dr Bjoern Schulte, German Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), stressed: "Germany is very well positioned in basic research. Now, we need a system administrator who brings all the strands together to create solutions that reach people's everyday lives." QUIC is now established in Hamburg while research initiatives such as Quantum Flagship or QuantERA, that promote transnational research project, exist on the European level.
Quantum computing sexy
Dr Lars Reger, CTO of NXP, is also eyeing the industry as the development of microchips is likely to prove a catalyst of innovation in quantum computing. The German Aerospace Centre's (DLR) Quantum Computing Innovation Centre is being built on the NXP campus in Lokstedt, where the quantum computing ecosystem will be developed under commercially viable conditions. Reger now hopes to bring together 180 talented professionals, 60 of whom will be employed by NXP, to develop industrial applications. Requirements such as technical expertise, an understanding of physics and a flair for successful business do not make recruitment any easier, of which Reger is aware. "Nevertheless, The topic is really sexy. We have great opportunities with it."
However, sexy beings can be dark and dangerous, Reger noted. Given the extraordinary power of quantum computers, conventional encryption can be cracked easily. "That's why we are already developing systems that resist brute force attacks." NXP's specialists are already developing cryptographic functions that are used in identity cards and bank cards among others.