October 14, 2020

Finland makes advances in quantum computing

Racks of computing infrastructure in a facility lit up in blue.
Finland is eager to be at the forefront of migrating quantum computing from laboratories to real-world settings.
VTT

Greater Helsinki recently being recognised by a global competition for its excellence in quantum technology is yet another example of how Finland is well on its way to fulfilling its promise of becoming a leader in the sector. Numerous innovations and projects here are billed to push quantum computing from laboratories to real-world settings.

Helsinki Business Hub team celebrating

Helsinki Business Hub focused on quantum computing when introducing the Greater Helsinki ecosystem to the judges of this year’s InnoVision Ecosystems Awards.

Helsinki Business Hub

Greater Helsinki on 13 October was chosen as the most innovative ecosystem in the world at the first-ever InnoVision Ecosystems Awards, a global online event held online, established to celebrate innovative ecosystems worldwide. Selected by Helsinki Business Hub, the Finnish capital’s winning theme was quantum technology.

Pitching to a diverse international audience and an expert panel of judges, the Helsinki region presented its world-leading expertise and recent achievements in quantum technology. The final decision was made by the jury based on a wide range of criteria, including the significance of the developed technology and the ecosystem’s profile. In their first year, the awards included 50 contenders from 41 countries.

“This award is a recognition to the whole ecosystem in Greater Helsinki which works closely together to create ground-breaking innovations in new technologies, like quantum computing,” commented Marja-Liisa Niinikoski, CEO of Helsinki Business Hub. “Greater Helsinki provides an excellent platform to local and international businesses to develop scalable solutions with a potential for global impact.”

Significant breakthrough

Elsewhere, physicists from Aalto University and VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland in October introduced the global scientific community to a diminutive device capable of measuring energy quanta at unprecedented resolution in an article published in one of the most prestigious journals in the world, Nature.

Mikko Möttönen

According to Mikko Möttönen, extreme accuracy, combined with fast operation, make the device interesting for the development of quantum technology.

Mikko Möttönen

The authors demonstrated that the thermal radiation detector, or bolometer, is theoretically accurate enough to detect individual microwave photons at astonishing speeds – roughly a hundred times faster than its predecessors.

The breakthrough has the potential to expedite the development of quantum computers, given that measuring the energy of qubits is a core element of the operation of quantum computers.

Mikko Möttönen, a research professor at VTT, explained in a blog post that the combination of unprecedented speed and accuracy could make it possible to use the detector for reading the memory of a superconducting quantum computer or the signals of a quantum radar.

The groundwork for the innovation was laid about a decade ago. The key steps on the way, he told, included switching from metal to atom-thin graphene in a bid to enable the detection of even smaller quantities of energy and – in a move against conventional wisdom – trying to heat the bolometer along the wire intended for reading it.

Although significant, the breakthrough must be backed with further investments and, first and foremost, open collaboration and knowledge-sharing in the budding quantum ecosystem, stressed Möttönen.

Readiness for future pandemics

The Finnish government has recognised the field’s importance, having already allocated funds for building the foundation for a quantum ecosystem and acquiring the first quantum computer in Finland.

The acquisition plan was announced in May by VTT. Antti Vasara, the CEO of VTT, reminded that advances in quantum computing should enable societies to overcome challenges impossible for contemporary supercomputers, including pandemics similar to COVID-19.

“The quantum computers of the future will be able to accurately model viruses and pharmaceuticals or design new materials in a way that is impossible with traditional methods,” he proclaimed.

Pentagon-shaped white objects.

IQM Finland unveiled its quantum computer design in conjunction with a cash injection of around 20 million euros.

PR Newsfoto/IQM Finland

The current circumstances make investments in quantum computing and other emerging technologies all the more important, as they enable societies to recover quicker from the economic crisis set off by the pandemic, added Vasara.

Work on quantum computing is underway also in the private sector. IQM Finland in June revealed it has received over 20 million euros for commercialising of its quantum hardware through co-design and growing what is already the largest industrial quantum hardware team in Europe – at a pace of one engineer per week.

Around three-quarters of the total was received from equity investors and the rest from Business Finland and the EIC Accelerator, formerly known as the SME Instrument.

The capital injection enables the company to scale its technology for superconducting quantum processors, told Kuan Yen Tan, the chief technology officer and co-founder of the spin-off from Aalto University and VTT.

“That brings us closer to quantum advantage, thus providing tangible commercial value in near-term quantum computers,” he said.

Good News from Finland is published by Finnfacts, which is part of Business Finland.

Text: Aleksi Teivainen

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