Developments in quantum technology and quantum computing are accelerating rapidly. While the world is still some way from fully understanding the capabilities of quantum technology, we know that they will bring enormous changes. For example, using the principles of quantum mechanics allows astonishingly fast computing. But that’s just one of countless applications that are taking shape as theory is becoming practice. Collaborations at Amsterdam Science Park between companies and leading research institutes are breaking new ground in the race to harness the incredible power of quantum across all economic sectors.
Since 2015, QuSoft has been at the heart of quantum research at Amsterdam Science Park. Founded as a collaboration between the University of Amsterdam (UvA) and the national research institute for mathematics and computer science, Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica (CWI), QuSoft carries out foundational and multidisciplinary research. According to quantum innovation officer Koen Groenland, QuSoft is one of the world’s oldest quantum research groups focusing on software. And it’s held in high regard internationally, he says. “In science, presenting at a conference is a big achievement. And a significant portion of the speakers at the last 2023 QIP conference were from QuSoft.” In 2027, QuSoft will move into a new, custom-built hub for all things quantum: LabQ.
As the future home of QuSoft and the CWI, LabQ at Amsterdam Science Park is an important link in the national quantum ecosystem. Set to be the main hub for education, research and valorisation in the field of quantum physics and technology, it marks a momentous step towards realising the city’s quantum ambitions. Across approximately 13,000 square metres, the building will house the advanced laser setups needed to achieve breakthroughs in quantum research. Another focus is on the development of quantum applications and quantum sensing. The building will provide ample room for co-creation, allowing researchers to collaborate closely with each other and external partners – businesses as well as other researchers. The goal: bridging the gap between fundamental quantum research and its practical applications.
A partnership between Bosch Group and QuSoft resulted in new insights in using quantum optimisation algorithms for data clustering. Such tools can be used, for example, in image processing, helping to analyse the relation between objects in a picture. DisQover is a two-year partnership between QuSoft and ABN AMRO, which explores potential applications of quantum computing in the financial industry. QuSoft has also joined forces with the Atos Group to develop UvA’s Quantum in Business and Society course. The course focuses on teaching students to transform academic knowledge into use cases for business and on understanding the impact future quantum computers will have on industry and society.
QAL are leading the way in developing software for end users, according to Groenland. When it comes to collaboration with business, “they’re the perfect example,” he says. One collaboration of particular interest is an energy grid optimisation project in partnership with energy network company Alliander. “They’re looking at the configuration of the grid, the lines that connect stations,” Groenland explains. “If a certain number of these lines fail, we have a power outage. We want the system to be resilient to that. Finding the right configuration of lines is especially important to ensure there’s resilience if one or more lines fail.”
Quantum.Amsterdam was established in 2020 as a major innovation hub for quantum software, technology and applications. A joint initiative of CWI, QuSoft and the UvA, the hub is part of the national Dutch programme Quantum Delta NL. From its home base at Amsterdam Science Park’s Startup Village, it focuses on building a strong quantum ecosystem and facilitating close collaborations between leading knowledge partners, technology companies and companies interested in exploring and developing new business applications.
Koen Groenland describes Quantum.Amsterdam as “the place to stay up to date with the field, to learn what’s going on”. Bringing people together is key, and the group organises both public and private events to do just that. “Our public events attract a very broad range of people, like entrepreneurs, students, people that work for big corporations. Private events target the people already working in the field of quantum. We really hope to strengthen the ties between the different companies that are doing something with quantum. The best-case scenario is if a new collaboration is sparked. If an end user and a content provider find each other and they go on to build something new that really increases the amount of business in our area.”
Quantum.Amsterdam also offers workshops for interested companies. What makes these special, is their focus on end-use cases, according to Groenland: “If you google for a workshop on quantum, people are going to try to explain a lot of mathematics, a lot of physics, laser physics, small particles etc. But honestly, you just want people to learn how to use it. And to know strategically what to use it for. Our unique selling point is that we really are one of the few teams that have a good overview of this perspective. How are we going to use this quantum computer? What are the promising applications? And what should you stay away from?”
A number of startups at the park are also developing innovative quantum solutions. Fermioniq, for example, is developing quantum software that can be run on a conventional computer, while the Quantum Gateway Foundation works with companies to ensure their systems will be able to meet the cybersecurity challenges presented by quantum computing.
But even given the advances that have been made in the field in recent years, there is still a lot of ground to be won, says Groenland. “We know quantum is extremely promising, but we haven’t really found the killer applications yet. We need to learn more, not just about the hardware proper, but also discovering what we can do with it.” The limits of quantum technology are nowhere near being reached, and researchers and companies at Amsterdam Science Park are determined to keep stretching those limits. And, of course, discovering those ‘killer applications’. Watch this space.
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