Working together to advance quantum computing in Europe

01/30/2020 - Successful workshop on »Quantum Computing« at Fraunhofer IAF

Quantum computing promises to be able to solve problems through highly parallel data processing that can hardly be solved with today's computing power. The first functional quantum computers with more than 50 qubits are already available on the market - mainly from the USA. In Europe, too, initiatives have been launched to build a European quantum computer. Europe-wide and interdisciplinary collaboration is needed to stay on top of the global competition for »quantum supremacy« . To this end, the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Solid State Physics IAF together with the Fraunhofer Group for IUK Technology hosted a workshop on »Quantum Computing« on January 23, 2020.

 

About 100 participants from research, politics and industry attended the workshop and exchanged their views, offers and the current state of the art of quantum computing in Europe. A lively dialogue developed between representatives of large companies such as BASF, Volkswagen and Bosch, but also innovative start-ups, scientists and representatives from politics.

© Fraunhofer IAF
© Fraunhofer IAF
© Fraunhofer IAF

Great potential of quantum computing for many industries

Keynote speaker Ingolf Wittmann (IBM Deutschland GmbH) demonstrated the fundamental advantages of quantum computers: Current high performance computing systems (HPCs) reach their physical limits with many problems, because their computing power is only linearly scalable by the number of their bits. As a result, they require increasingly more space and energy to handle increasing amounts of data. Due to the unique properties of quantum technology, however, the computing capacity of a quantum computer increases exponentially to its qubits. Thus, a quantum computer with only 275 qubits would be able to simulate more states simultaneously than there are atoms in the universe. This opens up promising new possibilities for industry.

Michael Kühn of BASF, for example, sees an urgent need in the chemical industry to simulate the sometimes very extensive structures of molecules more accurately and to observe changes in reactions. Industries such as logistics and passenger transport would also benefit. Oliver Pfeiffer from Deutsche Bahn hopes to achieve nationwide optimized network planning, which with the computing power of today's systems is only possible on a regional basis. Michael Streif from Volkswagen reported that the general traffic flow can be optimized using quantum computers, as was already demonstrated at last year's »Web Summit« conference. There, for the first time in the world, shuttle buses were successfully guided through Lisbon's city traffic in real time using quantum computers.

© Fraunhofer IAF
© Fraunhofer IAF
© Fraunhofer IAF

A complex interaction of hardware and software

The highly complex interaction of hardware and software is considered one of the greatest challenges in the development of quantum computers. There are different approaches and construction principles for qubit systems, as representatives of IQM Quantum Computers and the University of Konstanz and Mainz explained. Fraunhofer IAF has long been researching particularly low-noise cryogenic electronics for information transmission as well as qubits based on NV centers in diamond. According to Rüdiger Quay, deputy director of IAF, the latter have the advantage of functioning at room temperature. This would be a milestone towards more energy-efficient systems suitable for everyday use.

Frank Wilhelm-Mauch of Saarland University emphasized that the potential of the quantum computer must also be analyzed with regard to the end user - an appeal that was reflected in several talks. Manfred Hauswirth, Director of Fraunhofer FOKUS, also stressed: »It takes more than just the right software and hardware to make quantum computers successful. We also need engineers and software developers who are specially trained in this field so that we can successfully transfer quantum computers into applications«. There was also consensus on understanding quantum computing as an interdisciplinary topic that requires international cooperation in order to establish Europe as an independent quantum technology location.

© Fraunhofer IAF
© Fraunhofer IAF
Around 100 participants from industry, politics and research met at Fraunhofer IAF for the industrial workshop on quantum computing.
© Fraunhofer IAF
Around 100 participants from industry, politics and research met at Fraunhofer IAF for the industrial workshop on quantum computing.

The future of quantum computing in Germany

In September 2019, IBM and the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft announced that, as part of a joint initiative, the first European quantum computer will be put into operation at a German site. The initiative brings together established partners from research and industry under the umbrella of a new competence center, the Fraunhofer Center for Quantum Computing. The aim is to advance the competencies and strategies for industry and application-oriented processes. Even if current quantum computer systems are not yet able to replace the current high-performance computers, they are already showing considerable advantages that could benefit EU research, explained Oliver Ambacher, Director of Fraunhofer IAF and coordinator of the Center of Competence »Quantum Computing Baden-Württemberg«. »Germany in particular is currently full of ideas, now it is time to keep at it,« also appealed Ingolf Wittmann of IBM Germany.

The first industry workshop on quantum technology took place in May 2019 at Fraunhofer IAF. This time again, the format proved its worth in bringing together relevant players and using it as a platform for new ideas and cooperation. Quantum computing is a »moonshot project«, which can only be brought to success together, the workshop participants concluded. Christian Gogolin from Covestro closed by saying: »We have just made the first few centimeters of our journey and we don't know yet if it will take us to the moon, but it is highly promising«.

Further Information

First quantum computer in Germany

Together with IBM, the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft is bringing the first quantum computer to Germany to advance application-oriented quantum computing research in the EU.

Center of Competence »Quantum Computing«

Sign up if you want to be informed about the current status of the Center of Competence, project opportunities and offers on how you can obtain computing power. [in German]

 

Quantum technology research at IAF

Further information on our research in the field of quantum technologies can be found here: