In the Winter Semester of 2022, CDTM offered a 3-day elective called “Hello Quantum World” on the basics of quantum computing. This article is based on the lecture notes as presented by Aaron Sander, Franz Haslbeck, Sreejit Dutta, Emily Haworth, Dr. Stephen DiAdamo, Bartu Bisgin, Dr. Philipp Gerbert, Chris Trummer, Benjamin Erhart, Dr. Ahmed Maati, Dr. Thomas Ehmer, Franz von Silva-Tarouca, and Elvira Shishenina, and it covers the quantum use cases and the ecosystem in Germany.
What are Electives at the CDTM, again?
The CDTM offers an interdisciplinary add-on study program in Munich covering trend research, product development, and strategic problems over three courses – for the innovators of tomorrow. Electives complement those core courses by offering students the opportunity to deepen their knowledge in an area of their choice. Usually, these electives are designed, prepared and conducted by the CAs (Center Assistants).
Before we jump into the use cases and the ecosystem, we will introduce what quantum computers are at a conceptual level.
“If the traditional computer is an airplane, a quantum computer would be a rocket” – this is how Dr. Philipp Gerbert introduced quantum computing. Indeed, quantum computing offers the potential for solving problems exponentially faster in areas such as cryptography, optimization, and simulation. However, it is still in its early stages of development and many technical challenges need to be overcome before it can be widely adopted. In this article, we will explore what quantum computing is, some of the potential use cases for this technology, and the state of the quantum tech ecosystem in Germany.
What is Quantum Computing?
Quantum computing is a type of computing that uses quantum bits (qubits) to process information. Unlike classical computers that use binary bits composed of two states (0 or 1), qubit states can exist in multiple states at the same time, meaning quantum computers are faster for a certain class of problems.
Does this mean that a quantum computer will replace my laptop in the future? Not really. You won’t be sending emails or writing word documents with a quantum computer. For those tasks, a classical computer is perfectly fine. Quantum computers will not replace classical computers but complement them. You can think of quantum computers in the same way that the CPU and the GPU work together in your laptop. The GPU is a specialized unit, that is super fast for processing graphics. In the same way, the QCs will work in conjunction with classical units to solve specific problems.
But where does the quantum speed-up come from? While this is a complicated answer, two main properties enable this advantage: superposition and entanglement.
Superposition is the ability of a quantum system to be in multiple states at the same time. Imagine that you have to solve a labyrinth: a classical computer will try a path, turn back when it reaches the end, then start again until it finds the exit. In contrast, a quantum computer will use superposition to explore all branches in parallel.
Entanglement is a correlation between the states of two qubits. When two qubits are entangled, this correlation allows you to know the state of one qubit, by knowing the state of the other.
These are oversimplified explanations of these effects and it still doesn’t entirely explain where the speed-up comes from! However, a deeper discussion of quantum physics and algorithms is beyond the scope of this article. If you are interested in this, chapters 1 to 3 of the Qiskit Textbook explain these effects, as well as why and how quantum computers are faster in some cases.
Quantum Use Cases
Below you will find a list of the most promising use cases. Please note that this is not an exhaustive list and that most likely many use cases will be uncovered as the technology and our understanding of it progresses.
- Machine learning and artificial intelligence (such as neural networks)
- Search, bidding strategies for advertisements, online, and product marketing
- Cybersecurity, software verification, and validation
- Logistics: scheduling, planning, product design, routing
- Automotive: traffic simulation, e-charging station and parking search, autonomous driving
- Semiconductors: manufacturing (such as chip layout optimization)
- Aerospace: R&D and manufacturing (such as fault analysis), stronger polymers for airplanes
- Material science: effective catalytic converters for cars, battery cell research, more-efficient
- materials for solar cells, and property engineering uses (such as OLEDs)
Chemistry and pharma
- Catalyst and enzyme design (e.g., nitrogenase)
- Pharmaceuticals R&D (e.g., faster drug discovery)
- Bioinformatics (e.g., genomics)
- Patient diagnostics for health care (e.g., improved diagnostic capability for MRI)
- Trading strategies, portfolio optimization, market simulation, asset pricing
- Risk analysis, fraud detection
- Network design, energy distribution
- Oil well optimization
Quantum Tech Ecosystem in Munich
The quantum tech ecosystem in Munich and beyond can be seen as a flywheel for innovation. Composed of a diverse range of stakeholders including government entities, academic institutions, entrepreneurial hubs, start-ups, investors, and industrial firms, it plays a crucial role in driving progress. Let’s take a closer look at each of these players.
The German government is an essential part of the quantum tech ecosystem due to its increased amount of funding in quantum startups and projects in the last couple of years. As a result, Germany ranks second in quantum computing technology investment after China.
The German and Bavarian ecosystems benefit from federal and state financial resources. The main pillars and investors in quantum are mentioned below:
- Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and the Association of German Engineers (VDI)
- Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action (BMWK) and the German Aerospace Center (DLR)
- Bavarian State Ministry for Science and Art (StMWK) and Bayerische Staatsministerium für Wirtschaft, Landesentwicklung und Energie (StMWi)
Stakeholders in academia joined forces and founded the Munich Quantum Valley. Their vision is to join research of different institutions to promote quantum science technologies. The Munich Quantum Valley consists of 50 leading research groups from seven different institutions in eight research consortia to develop everything needed for a useful quantum computer. Additional models on education, outreach, infrastructure, and entrepreneurship complete the setup. The Munich Quantum Valley has an extensive list of QC research institutes in Munich.
In Munich, there are also student initiatives, for example, PushQuantum, which in cooperation with the TUM Venture Labs Quantum, offers the “Quantum Entrepreneurship Lab”, a project-based program where students conceptualize and pitch a quantum startup.
Entrepreneurship centers: TUM Venture Lab Quantum
TUM Venture Labs is a joint initiative of TUM and UnternehmerTUM which supports scientists and students in an entrepreneurial way in the Munich Ecosystem by establishing new entrepreneurial innovation hubs. TUM Venture Labs consists of nine clusters, including healthcare, aerospace, quantum, and others. The quantum one, Venture Lab Quantum, is an incubation program that drives an entrepreneurial mindset in order to create a tailored and optimized support structure for founders from early ideation to incorporation.
TUM Venture Lab Quantum contributes significantly to shaping the quantum venture landscape in Munich. Besides teams that are part of their incubation program, some teams have successfully developed local startups which attract more and more international companies to open a site in Munich. These include:
- Pre-seed teams – Quantum Diamonds, Munich Quantum Instruments, Serino
- Local start-ups – planqc, kiutra
- International start-ups – IQM, AQT, Quandela, parityqc, Multiverse, Quantinuum, Terra Quantum
With quantum research set to take off within the next few decades, it becomes a promising field for VCs to invest in. While a typical VC fund is active for ten years, funds invested in quantum usually take much longer. But nevertheless, in the last three years, the advancements in quantum research have resulted piqued the interest of VCs. For example, in 2020 there were 69 quantum-related startups in Europe with €150m+ of equity funding, and in 2022 this increased to 100+ startups with over €750m.
Additionally, government funding for quantum computing is also surging at an unprecedented rate, with numerous countries investing or announcing plans to invest in this field. Some examples include Australia, which has allocated $100 million, Canada with $400 million, France with $1.1 billion, and Germany with $2.2 billion.
The Munich ecosystem is comprised of various VC funds that play a significant role in advancing quantum research through investments in quantum startups. These funds include UVC Partners, vsquared ventures, MIG Capital, Matterwave, Speedinvest.
DAX companies and SMEs have an increasing interest in quantum computing. They can be divided into two groups: quantum computing applicants (e.g., Infineon, Siemens, Boehringer Ingelheim, SAP, BMW,) and suppliers (e.g., Intel, Zurich Instruments, MenloSystems).
Due to its unique nature, quantum computing offers the potential for exponential problem-solving capabilities in various fields, from high-tech and industrial goods to finance and pharma. Despite the challenges, the progress made in recent years has been remarkable and it’s an exciting time for new ventures.
During the “Hello Quantum World” elective at CDTM, we covered tech and business topics. This was only possible thanks to experts in industry and academia who took the time on their Friday and Saturday to give lectures and participate in our panel discussion. On the third day, the students had 4 hours to apply their learnings to pitch a quantum startup in front of a jury. We concluded the three-day elective with a panel discussion with leading experts from UnternehmerTUM, PushQuantum, BMW, and Merck Group.
The startup ideas included:
- Qlobe, which aims to unlock a new era of weather forecasting
- EnQ, a cloud-based platform for the design and chemical simulation of batteries for electric vehicles
- TraffiQ, a quantum-based software solution that optimizes traffic light networks to reduce the waiting time and ease the traffic flow
Eager to learn more about other technologies and their business applications?
Apply to CDTM to be one of the new students starting next semester.