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5. Innovation Lounge

Quantum Computing – Future becomes Reality

Science and management in dialogue – in cooperation with Fraunhofer Alumni: “Quantum computing – future becomes reality”.

July 12, 2023

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Presence & Digital

July 12 from 5:00 pm

Moderation: Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, Viktor Deleski

  • Greeting Prof. Dr. Alexander Kurz, Executive Board Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft
  • Lecture Dr. rer. nat. Hannah Venzl, Office of the Competence Network Quantum Computing of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft
  • Lecture Dr. Michael Förtsch, CEO, Q.ANT GmbH
  • Lecture Dr. Florian Knäble, quantum software engineer, Fraunhofer IAO
  • Until approx. 7 p.m.: Panel discussion
  • Get-together with flying buffet and cool drinks
  • approx. 9:30 p.m. End of the event


Quantum computing between hype and reality

Currently, quantum technology is hyped as a solution to just about everything.

But where do we really stand? How long will it be before quantum computers are powerful enough to tackle complex scientific, economic, ecologic and societal challenges? Are there already applications available that offer real benefits?

While some use cases seem obvious, others are still a long way off. To help companies move forward on their journey into the quantum world, it is critical to develop use cases, collaborate in the ecosystem, and hire and train appropriate personnel. This is the only way to distinguish hype from reality and realize the business value of quantum computing.

In the Innovation Lounge, experts from applied research and practice worked out how quantum computing actually works technically, what is currently being researched, and how and for what purposes the technology can be used in the foreseeable future.



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A summary of the innovation lounge quantum computing in 8 theses:

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1. Quantum computing: Huge market potential, diverse use cases.

Quantum computing is one of the technologies that is being massively hyped at the moment, but is still hardly understood. Dr. Hannah Venzl is head of the department of project management of large-scale projects at Fraunhofer headquarters as well as the office of the Fraunhofer Competence Network Quantum Computing. She points out the enormous market potential of quantum computing: The market is expected to grow by more than 20 percent annually by 2030. The applications are diverse. They range, for example, from the development of drugs and vaccines to the real-time detection of credit card fraud and complex optimization problems in business: What is the ideal route for a parcel service provider? When does the plane need to be refueled and where? How do I load my shipping fleet in an ideal way? 

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2. Quantum Computing: A leap such as from Abacus to PC.

Venzl quotes Nobel Prize winner Bill Philips. Years ago, he already stated that a quantum computer differs from a classical computer as much as the latter differs from an abacus. Venzl explains this with the help of the Bloch sphere: A classical computer operates with the smallest logical unit “bit”, which can hold the value 0 or 1. In quantum computing, on the other hand, we refer to qubits, which can adopt unequally more complex superpositions and can also be intertwined with each other. In the Bloch sphere, for example, the uppermost point represents the value 1, while the lowest point takes the value 0. However, the quantum computer – in contrast to the binary bit – can assume any point on the sphere. Therefore, the quantum computer is exponentially more complex than the classical computer as we know it. 

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3. Quantum Computer is a Diva.

The challenges of quantum computing include the high complexity of manufacturing and operation. It requires very specialized hardware and new algorithms that are based on a fundamentally different logic and a new computing paradigm, and are therefore extremely expensive. A typical quantum computer is very large because of the cooling and control electronics. However, the chip of a quantum computer with 5 qubits itself is hardly bigger than a thumbnail. In addition, quantum computing requires an extremely low temperature; most hardware and software concepts must be cooled to absolute zero of 0° Kelvin (-273.15° C). The error rate is still comparatively high and the coherence times in which the quantum states remain stable are very short. Currently, therefore, no universal quantum computers exist, but only a few physical specimens called NISQ (Noisy Intermediate Scale Quantum). However, so far, no quantum advantage has been demonstrated that would make solving real-world problems more efficient than with conventional computers. Another bottleneck is the highly specialized expert knowledge that is required. 

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4. From 1982 to today: Development in Leaps and Bounds.

The idea of quantum computing was articulated for the first time in 1982 by physicist Richard Feynman, explains Dr. Florian Knäble, a quantum software engineer at Fraunhofer IAO. Feynman realized that nature is basically a giant quantum computer. In the 40 years since Feynman’s thesis, quantum computing has continued to evolve in leaps and bounds, yet it is still miles away from mass deployment today. In June 2023, IBM published the paper “Quantum Utility,” which addressed a real-world problem, but it can only be handled by the one selected quantum computer for which the problem was described. However, this is progress compared to the “Quantum Supremacy” moment that Google claimed in 2019. With a quantum computer that used 53 qubits, Google was able to create a quantum circuit at the time, but the problem to be solved was theoretical and very contrived.


5. Charging Stations for EVs – just one Application of Quantum Computing.

Knäble outlined use cases of quantum computing that are currently being researched. Hopes for the coming years range from real-time solutions, tackling previously intractable complex problems, green computing and more accurate results in simulations. With regard to the energy industry, quantum computing could help optimize the layout and operation of charging stations for electric vehicles, depending on the number of vehicles, the times they stay there and the energy they require. In finance, portfolio analyses and risk models could be optimized with the help of quantum computing; in logistics, route planning; in production, processes. Cybersecurity could also benefit from the technology. 


6. Quantum Computers are still in their Infancy.

Dr. Michael Förtsch is founder and CEO of Q.ANT, a start-up that produces cutting-edge sensors and photonic computer chips using photonic quantum technology. Förtsch says: “At the moment, we are still a long way from the widespread use of quantum technology. Currently, only an elite circle with a high willingness to pay is interested in the technology. “I have little hope that we will be able to address the early majority in the next ten years.” From today’s perspective, he said, it will be a very long time before quantum computers can be developed for the masses. 

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7. Artificial Intelligence and Quantum Computing – a Dream Combination?

According to Förtsch, quantum computing has analogies to neural networks, especially in terms of algorithms. He says this is interesting in questions such as the “airport gate assigning problem” at airports, which involves how quickly passengers should be directed to which part of the airport. Although the problem can be solved with a quantum computer, the question is whether an information theorist could not currently solve it even faster with a classical computer. “The greatest potential can be realized in a composite architecture of classical and quantum computers,” he says. Hannah Venzl adds, that questions of traffic control are generally interesting optimization problems that can be solved well in combination with AI and QC. 

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8. Europe has an international Opportunity in Quantum Computing.

Just four years ago, IBM had the world’s only true quantum computer, says Hannah Venzl. Since then, however, “an incredible amount has happened,” not only in the U.S. or (presumably) in China, but also in Europe. In Germany, quantum computing is currently being promoted very well, she says. Nevertheless, the U.S. is far ahead of Europe because venture capital is much more easily provided there. When public funding ends in Germany in 2026, Venzl and Förtsch agree, there is a real danger of a sellout to U.S. companies – despite Germany’s pioneering scientific role internationally. Förtsch appeals to support the technology: “Support quantum computing in your communications if you see an opportunity in it.” 

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Our Speakers

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Dr. Michael Förtsch
Founder and CEO, Q.ANT

Dr. Michael Förtsch is founder and CEO of Q.ANT.

He studied mathematics and physics and earned his doctorate at the Max Planck Institute for the Physics of Light in Erlangen. A research stay at the National Institute for Standards and Technology in Boulder was followed by positions as a strategy consultant and personal assistant to the CTO at TRUMPF Se + Co. KG in Stuttgart. From this position, he founded the company Q.ANT in 2018.

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Dr. Hannah Venzl
Head of the Competence Network Quantum Computing, Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft

Dr. Hannah Venzl heads the department of project management of large-scale projects at Fraunhofer headquarters as well as the office of the Fraunhofer Competence Network Quantum Computing.

She studied physics in Germany and Australia, received her PhD in theoretical quantum optics, and has many years of experience in research and project management.

The Fraunhofer competence network quantum computing researches and develops new technological solutions as well as quantum-based computing strategies for applied, economically relevant issues in close cooperation with partners and customers from research and industry. The network also has and offers exclusive access to the only IBM quantum computer in Europe, which is operated in Ehningen, Germany.

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Dr. Florian Knäble
Quantum Software Engineer, Fraunhofer IAO

Dr. Florian Knäble is a mathematician and received his PhD in applied probability theory from Bielefeld University in 2012.

Afterwards, he worked for 8 years in the banking environment in risk analysis and derivatives valuation. Since 2021 he has been working at Fraunhofer IAO as a quantum software engineer on applications in optimization and finance.

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