In October 2020, Greater Helsinki 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, the CEO of Helsinki Business Hub at the time. “Greater Helsinki provides an excellent platform to local and international businesses to develop scalable solutions with a potential for global impact.”
This is just the tip of the iceberg for quantum computing in Finland in recent times. Elsewhere, physicists from Aalto University and VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland have 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.
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.
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.
Private companies are also keen to get involved in the field of quantum computers. In November 2020, IQM Finland revealed that it had closed a financing round of 39 million euros, pushing its capital total to 71 million euros.
“I am extremely pleased with the confidence our investors have shown in our vision, team, product, and the ability to execute and commercialise quantum computers,” said Jan Goetz, CEO of IQM. “This investment also shows their continued belief in building the future of quantum technologies,”
In June 2020, the company 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 enabled 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.