Is Hamburg ready for quantum leap?

7 December 2023
Hamburg Quantum Innovation Capital invited to "Quantum Readiness" - with use cases and funding instruments for quantum technology

Researchers worldwide are striving to come up with a reliable, universal quantum computer and promising applications of this forward-looking technology. Quantum computers hold enormous potential to optimise smart power grids, flight and shipping routes as well as intelligent supply chains in the near future. Depending on the scenario, a global market volume of USD 280 million could be reached by 2024, according to the Hamburg-based Statista.  And Hamburg has set itself the goal of becoming a mover and shaker on this market. 

The status of Hamburg's quantum computing ecosystem topped the agenda of the "Quantum Readiness: Funding and Application Opportunities in the Hamburg Metropolitan Region" conference in the Dockland, organised by the City of Hamburg, Hamburgische Investitions- und Förderbank (IFB) and Hamburg Quantum Innovation Capital (HQIC) in late November.

More possible combinations than atoms in universe

"Quantum computing holds solutions to certain previously unsolvable problems," according to Dr Joseph Doetsch, a data scientist at Lufthansa Industry Solutions GmbH & Co. KG (LHIND). However, the same applies to encryption systems previously considered secure. Cryptocurrencies and crypto mining will remain safe from attacks launched with quantum computers for "about ten years", he noted. The development of quantum-secure encryption systems is also progressing and the Federal Office for Information Security has issued recommendations for so-called post-quantum cryptography. Yet, quantum computers hold great optimization potential e.g., for allocating gates to arriving aircraft. "If 200 aircraft are to be allocated to 50 gates, the total number of possible combinations is higher than there are atoms in the universe." High performing quantum computers means an ideal decision can be reached rapidly. 


Maritime use case 

Caculations by Dr Anisa Rizvanolli, Fraunhofer CML, are similar. Her work involves planning routes for tankers and accounting for changing journey times and conditions in the destination ports. "Tankers that transport hazardous goods are not allowed to call at every port and if they do, they are not allowed to anchor next to just any ship," she pointed out. At present, people incorporate such variables into plans manually. Now, the Fraunhofer CML hopes to prepare the data so that calculations can be carried out automatically. "The first calculations on a quantum annealer have already worked," said Rizvanolli. Annealers are geared towards the results of specific tasks and are a precursor of universal quantum computers. Developers now seek to maximise performance and to set up a demonstrator. Rizvanolli already uses a quantum annealer in the United States for her calculations. "We book computing time there and gain initial experience with the new technology. That enables us to demonstrate the potential of the computers and drive the development here in Germany."

Dr. Anisa Rizvanolli, Fraunhofer CML

Funding at federal and state level

Work is also underway on a quantum annealer in Hamburg. As part of the Rymax one project, a team of scientists from the University of Hamburg, the University of Kaiserslautern and the Fraunhofer ITWM have joined forces with leading technology companies to create a quantum computer specialising in optimisation problems by 2026. The project is being funded by the German Ministry for Education and Research as part of the Quantum Computer Demonstration Setups scheme. The City of Hamburg has earmarked EUR 10 million for quantum computing projects. IFB Hamburg is backing R&D companies and start-ups that are striving to come up with innovative products, procedures or services in quantum computing. "Applications can be submitted to fund specific projects, to prepare feasibility studies or to cover personnel costs," said Dr Carsten Lohmann, IFB.

Opportunities for quantum start-ups

Quantum computing is a particularly promising business for start-ups, according to Dr Heiko Milde, Managing Director of IFB Innovationsstarter GmbH, a subsidiary of IFB. The company accepts applications for funds from the City of Hamburg's total EUR 10 million. Enormous sums are being invested in quantum start-ups worldwide and came to USD 2.35 billion in 2022, according to the McKinsey Quantum Technology Monitor 2023. The InnoFounder is a most unbureaucratic funding tool for Hamburg, Milde stressed. "The scheme targets small start-ups that have been in business for less than a year and are still in the pre-foundation or foundation phase." A maximum grant of EUR 75,000 is available. The InnoRampUp scheme, on the other hand, targets start-ups in the founding phase and that are pursuing highly innovative business models such as quantum computing. "We are currently in final talks with a start-up and expect to be able to publish their quantum case shortly," said Milde. Start-ups funded by InnoRampUp can apply for up to EUR 150,000.


Dr. Heiko Milde, Managing Director of IFB Innovationsstarter GmbH

Innovation Starter Fund's concept for success

The Innovation Starter Fund provides up to EUR 1.5 million and invests venture capital in start-ups with outstanding business models. Around 50 investments totalling EUR 108 million have already been made via the Innovation Starter Fund, Milde said. "And we have already achieved 12 successful exits." Any money raised goes "straight back into the funding pot" to perhaps benefit a start-up keen to launch on the quantum computing market.


Sources and further information

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