Hamburg banking on quantum computers

21 February 2023
City's commitment paying off - Hamburg Quantum Innovation initiative notes keen interest in new settlements

Quantum computers perform complex simulations in seconds. Unlike conventional computers that work sequentially, they compute simultaneously thanks to qubits or quantum bits which are the smallest units of computation. Unlike classical bits, qubits - 1 or 0 - can be in both states and everything in between. Research into the potentially revolutionary technology is in full swing all over the world. "Government funding for quantum computing in the EU came to USD 7.2 billion and to USD 1.9 billion in the U.S. through 2021. China has surpassed those sums and is investing USD 15.3 billion,” according to the Hamburg-based Statista. The market volume is expected to come to around USD 8.6 billion worldwide in 2027.

Significant commercial impact expected

Hamburg has set its sights on becoming an international hotspot of quantum technology. Alternative research fields include quantum communication, quantum sensor technology and quantum materials. The Hamburg Quantum Innovation Capital (HQIC) initiative, launched in May, networks all the relevant stakeholders, co-ordinates projects along the entire value chain and acts as a cross-industry contact for all kinds of queries. The range of enquiries is broad because many industries are keen to use quantum computers, said Benedikt-Sebastian Mehmel, Project Manager at HQIC. "Quantum computers will have a significant commercial impact. However, depending on the application, it will certainly take another five to ten years or longer to reach marketability. At present, we are preoccupied with different use cases."

Benedikt-Sebastian Mehmel, Project Manager at HQIC

Threat posed by quantum computers

Use cases focus on the security of quantum computers and external threats capable of cracking the most sophisticated security key. Thus, the focus is on developing new quantum computing resistant security keys. NXP Semiconductors in Hamburg is already researching cryptographic algorithms and drawing up international standards to protect today's computing platforms from threats posed by quantum computing. "The U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is working on a global encryption standard that can withstand attacks from both conventional and quantum computers and has chosen an encryption algorithm developed with NXP," Mehmel said.

Quantum computer ideal for complex tasks

Quantum computers hold huge potential for logistics. An increasing number of variables make the optimization of industrial processes ever more complex. And maritime logistics is full of parameters. "Most goods are shipped worldwide. Imagine a fleet of 100 ships and a crew of around 2,000 to 3,000 people transporting an ever changing number of containers to a multitude of ports. Sixty ports alone means more possible routes than particles in the universe," said Mehmet. Some containers are empty while others are full. Weather data must also be taken into account when planning routes and transport must be as sustainable as possible. Conventional computers quickly reach their limits given this multitude of criteria. This is where quantum computers can be an enormous help by adapting to changing conditions and adjusting the results swiftly. 

Optimising maritime logistics with quantum computers

Hamburg scoring as centre of quantum research

Aviation, the automotive industry or the health care sector are other promising fields of application, said Mehmel. "Quantum computers will open up brand new means of developing medicines. Companies such as Philips and Astra Zeneca, the UKE and DESY Hamburg are strong stakeholders and their co-operation holds great potential." Bringing such stakeholders together is one of HQIC's main tasks. Hamburg is faring well given the tough international and national competition in quantum technology research. "Hamburg scores with excellent scientific and economic infrastructure as well as the visible commitment shown by the political sphere," said Dr Natalie Rotermund, Project Manager at HQIC, which was launched by the City of Hamburg at the Artificial Intelligence Center ARIC e.V. 

Natalie Rotermund, Project Manager at HQIC

Quantum computing school under construction

"We are working closely with the Ministry of Economics and Innovation, the Ministry of Science, Research, Equality and Districts, and the Hamburg Senate Chancellery," said Rotermund. This comes after the senate launched a four-part package of measures to strengthen the quantum computing ecosystem in October. Around EUR 17 million has been set aside for the "Hamburg Quantum Computing School" (HQS) to train specialists in hardware, software and quantum computer applciations, as well as PhD students and post-docs in quantum physics, electrical engineering and computer science. The new school is a joint project by the Technical University of Hamburg and the University of Hamburg's Centre for Optical Quantum Technologies, which is building a quantum computer as part of the "Rymax One" project. The senate is investing around EUR 25.1 million in strengthening the city as a centre of quantum computing. "Hamburg is showing its long-term commitment to quantum technology., And this policy is already attracting attention. The first companies are now showing interest in relocating here." Hamburg Invest offers consultations and support. 


Setting up an experiment at the Center for Optical Quantum Technologies

Sources and further information

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