By | November 20, 2023
Sweden and Finland make progress in quantum computing |  Computer Weekly

Finland and Sweden are leading the Nordic lead in launching important new advances in separate quantum computing projects.

In Sweden, Chalmers University of Technology (Chalmers UoT) has secured an additional 9 million euros (102 million kroner) 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 Center of Finland has completed the spin-out of SemiQon, a startup launched to develop more affordable and scalable quantum computers using newly created semiconductor qubit technology. SemiQon is backed by a pre-seed agreement with deep-tech investor Voima Ventures.

The special conditions under which new capital funding from Knut and Alice Wallenberg’s foundation (the Wallenberg Foundation) is released to Chalmers UoT mark a significant development within the quantum computing venture. The department is obliged, according to the funding conditions, to share the benefits arising from the project’s research, knowledge building and commercial stages with

s IT industry and technical research organizations.

Chalmers UoT is currently investigating the scope and framework needed to make research and knowledge generally available to the recipient’s external interest groups. The new funding will be used to build a quantum computer that has a quantum help desk to enable businesses and researchers to solve problems using quantum technology, a powerful resource far beyond the reach of the best conventional supercomputers.

Specific to Chalmers UoT, current developments in quantum technology and engineering, where computers excel at optimization tasks such as solving complex logistical issues, move in step to the next stage of decoding and finding solutions to challenges on a global scale. These may include accurate modeling of viruses and drugs or presenting solutions to address critical issues linked to climate change.

Through the Wallenberg Center for Quantum Technology (WACQT), the Wallenberg Foundation has become a significant player in the development of Chalmers UoT’s quantum computing project, which was launched in 2018. The project’s core goals, backed by a broad research program, are concentrated on building Swedish competence in the main branches of quantum technology; namely quantum computation and simulation, quantum communication and quantum sensing.

Chalmers UoT’s quantum computer currently operates on 25 qubits. The ambition for an upgrade is to reach 40 qubits by 2026, and its goal of 100 qubits by 2029. At 25 qubits, the computer can be used to run quantum algorithms. However, the time available for such exercises is limited against the background where the quantum computing machine is in an almost constant state of development.

“The quantum computer replica we are building will be made available as a testbed for companies and researchers to run algorithms. The mission is to raise Sweden’s level of competence in quantum technology and lower the threshold for using quantum computers,” says Per Delsing, head of WACQT and professor at Chalmers.

The testbed’s support function, the quantum helpdesk, is primarily intended as a navigation tool to help users rearrange problems into executable quantum algorithms.

To add additional value, the testbed platform is designed to provide assessment and pilot study equipment for companies engaged in developing quantum technology components. In real terms, the text-bed platform will enable IT companies and other technology-based organizations to optimize algorithms for hardware.

According to the current plan, Chalmers UoT’s test bed is scheduled to open its test equipment for components in 2024 together with the support platform Quantum Helpdesk. The project team, based on this schedule, envisions the quantum computer to be opened to run algorithms in 2025.

“This works on the concept that users don’t need a lot of prior knowledge. Companies will present problems that they think can be solved with a quantum computer. The Quantum Helpdesk will provide the help they need from that point on,” says Delsing.

Chalmers UoT’s project leaders, Delsing said, are very aware of quantum computing-related developments on the global stage, piloted by commercial players, some of whom have made quantum computing available via the cloud.

With the support of WACQT, Chalmers UoT strives to develop a test bed that will be significantly cheaper to both access and use for users in Sweden, said Delsing.

“A big difference between our quantum computing project and those being developed internationally is the degree of transparency we have about what is under the hood of our quantum computers. Being able to optimize algorithms for hardware increases the odds of successful calculations,” says Delsing.

In Finland, the expansion of VTT’s footprint in the quantum computing space has resulted in the state research organization spinning off SemiQon under a pre-seeding capital financing deal 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 operate at warmer temperatures using new semiconductor qubit technology.

With Voima Ventures on board providing key funding, SemiQon is building a new type of quantum processor circuit made from silicon semiconductors. This contrasts with contemporary approaches that are predominantly based on non-standard materials.

The next step in SemiQon’s journey is to make quantum computers significantly more capable of solving some of the world’s biggest challenges, says Himadri Majumdar, CEO of SemiQon.

“The solutions we offer address three major challenges that are currently holding back the development of quantum computers globally – their scalability, price and sustainability,” said Majumdar.

The new technology being developed by SemiQon, Majumdar, will enable the company to manufacture quantum processors in a way that supports scaling up manufacturing efficiency while lowering costs.

“The chips we are making allow the quantum computer to operate at warmer temperatures. As a result, the process requires only a fraction of the energy needed for alternative solutions,” says Majumdar.

Potentially, the quantum computing research program run by SemiQon could lead to the construction of quantum processors that require millions of quantum bits for fault-tolerant operation, said Jussi Sainiemi, a partner at Voima Ventures.

“Despite the fact that the vast majority of quantum investment globally has focused on superconducting and other qubit technologies, silicon semiconductor qubit technology remains underfunded – despite not being burdened with the scalability challenges that many other technologies face,” said Sainiemi.

“SemiQon’s technology has the potential to have a far-reaching impact on the field of quantum computing, paving the way for a truly scalable and sustainable quantum chip.”

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