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Sweden and Finland make advances in quantum computing
Separate Swedish and Finnish quantum computing projects make promising advances in the technology of the future
Finland and Sweden are leading the Nordic charge in rolling out important new advances in separate quantum computer projects.
In Sweden, Chalmers University of Technology (Chalmers UoT) has secured an additional €9m (SEK 102m) in funding to build and make available a copy of its quantum computer to the country’s IT industry.
Across the Gulf of Bothnia, the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland has completed the spin-out of SemiQon, a startup launched to develop more affordable and scalable quantum computers utilising newly created semiconductor qubit technology. SemiQon is backed by a pre-seeding deal with deep-tech investor Voima Ventures.
The special conditions under which new capital funding, provided by the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation (Wallenberg Foundation), is being released to Chalmers UoT marks a significant development in the quantum computing venture. The institution is required, under the terms of the funding, to share the benefits arising from the research, knowledge building and commercial stages of the project with
Chalmers UoT is currently investigating the scope and framework needed to make research and knowledge universally available to beneficiary external interest groups. The new funding will be used to build a quantum computer that features a quantum helpdesk to enable companies and researchers to solve problems using quantum technology, a powerful resource that lies far beyond the reach of the best conventional supercomputers.
Specific to the Chalmers UoT, the current evolution in quantum technologies and engineering, where computers excel at optimisation tasks such as solving complex logistical issues, is moving at pace to the next stage of decoding and finding solutions for world-scale challenges. These may include accurately modelling viruses and drugs or presenting solutions to address critical issues connected to climate change.
The Wallenberg Foundation, through the Wallenberg Centre for Quantum Technology (WACQT) has become a significant player in the development of the Chalmers UoT’s quantum computing project, which was launched in 2018. The core goals of the project, backed by a broad research programme, are concentrated on building Swedish expertise within the main branches of quantum technology; namely quantum computing and simulation, quantum communications and quantum sensing.
The Chalmers UoT’s quantum computer currently functions at 25 qubits. The scope of ambition for an upgrade is to reach 40 qubits by 2026, and its target of 100 qubits by 2029. At 25 qubits, the computer can be used to run quantum algorithms. However, time available for such exercises is limited against the backdrop where the quantum computer machine is in an almost constant state of development.
“The quantum computer copy we are building will be made available as a test bed for companies and researchers to run algorithms. The mission is to raise Sweden’s competence level in quantum technology and lower the threshold for using quantum computers,” said Per Delsing, director of WACQT and a professor at Chalmers.
The test bed’s support function, the quantum helpdesk, is primarily intended as a navigation tool to help users reorder problems to executable quantum algorithms.
Adding further value, the test bed platform is being designed to provide appraisal and pilot study equipment for companies engaged in developing quantum technology components. In real terms, the text bed platform will allow IT companies and other technology-based organisations to optimise algorithms for hardware.
Under the current plan, the Chalmers UoT’s test-bed is scheduled to open its components test equipment in 2024 alongside the Quantum Helpdesk support platform. The project team, based on this timetable, envisage the quantum computer to open for running algorithms in 2025.
“This works on the concept that users won’t need a lot of advance knowledge. Companies will present problems that they believe can be solved by a quantum computer. The Quantum Helpdesk will provide the help they need from that juncture,” Delsing said.
The Chalmers UoT’s project managers, said Delsing, are acutely aware of quantum computing related developments on the global stage piloted by commercial actors, some of whom have made quantum computers available via the cloud.
Backed by WACQT, Chalmers UoT is striving to develop a test-bed that will be significantly cheaper to both access and exploit for users in Sweden, Delsing said.
“A major difference between our quantum computing project and ones being developed internationally is the level of transparency we have about what’s under the hood of our quantum computers. Being able to optimise algorithms for hardware increases the odds of successful computations,” said Delsing.
In Finland, the expansion of VTT’s footprint in the quantum computer space has resulted in the state research organisation spinning out SemiQon under a pre-seeding capital funding agreement with Voima Ventures, one of Finland’s leading deep technology-investors.
SemiQon was established by VTT to create more affordable and scalable quantum computers that are easier to manufacture and can function in warmer temperatures utilising new semiconductor qubit technology.
With Voima Ventures onboard providing key funding, SemiQon is building a new type of quantum processor chip produced from silicon semiconductors. This contrasts with contemporary approaches which are predominantly based on non-standard materials.
The next stage in SemiQon’s journey is to make quantum computers significantly more capable of solving some of the world’s greatest challenges, said Himadri Majumdar, the CEO of SemiQon.
“The solutions we offer respond to three major challenges currently slowing down the development of quantum computers globally – their scalability, price, and sustainability,” Majumdar said.
The new technology being developed by SemiQon, Majumdar, will enable the company to fabricate quantum processors in a way that supports scaling up manufacturing efficiencies while simultaneously lowering costs.
“The chips we manufacture allows the quantum computer to operate at warmer temperatures. As a result, the process requires only a fraction of the energy needed for alternative solutions,” said Majumdar.
Potentially, the quantum computing research programme being run by SemiQon could lead to the building of quantum processors that require millions of qubits for fault-tolerant operation, said Jussi Sainiemi, a partner at Voima Ventures.
“Despite the fact that globally, the vast majority of quantum investments have addressed superconducting and other qubit technologies, silicon semiconductor qubit technology is still underfunded – despite not being burdened with the scalability challenges that many other technologies face,” Sainiemi said.
“SemiQon’s technology has the potential to have a far-reaching impact on the quantum computing sphere, paving the way to a truly scalable and sustainable quantum chip.”
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