Universiteit Leiden

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Developing quantum software with a grant of 18.8 million euros

The first larger quantum computers will soon be available. These computers need new software. Researchers at Leiden University have been awarded a Gravitation grant to develop the necessary software. They will be collaborating with colleagues from other research institutions.

The award of 18.8 million euros will enable researchers at Leiden University, QuSoft, CWI, QuTech, TU Delft, UvA and VU to carry out research over a ten-year period. Harry Buhrman (CWI, UvA, QuSoft) is the lead applicant for this Gravitation proposal. He was delighted with the award: 'Quantum compters and networks have the power to make calculations and carry out tasks that we couldn't even dream of with conventional computers. This technology has enormous potential but you have to know in advance what you're going to do with it and - even more important - how. This grant will allow us to develop the necessary quantum software. It is a huge scientific challenge but we can now really work all-out on it.' 

Gigantic breakthrough

Buhrman stresses that the so-called quantum revolution is a gigantic breakthrough: 'Actually, we're at the same point as in the sixties, when conventional computers were developed. There are all kinds of fascinating opportunities ahead of us, some of which we can't even imagine right now.' The consortium will carry out research on possible applications for new materials and the development of new medicines.

Software, communication and cryptography

Dirk Bouwmeester, a physicist in Leiden, seconds this view: 'There are already quantum computers that have a limited capacity, and larger versions will be available within the foreseeable future.' Quantum technology works using quantum bits. Conventional bits are 0 or 1, but quantum bits can be both 0 and 1 at the same time. This fundamental difference opens the door to unprecedented calculations, but it also means you have to construct and programme these computers completely differently from standard computers. 


‘Our consortium will develop and implement software for small quantum computers and a quantum internet,' says mathematician   Ronald Cramer (Leiden University, CWI). ‘We are developing protocols for quantum communication and for a new kind of cryptograpy that is secure in a quantum world. We will test the new algorithms and protocols on hardware that will be produced in Delft and in Leiden, and on a quantum network to be realised between Amsterdam, Delft, Leiden and The Hague.’ All this will be in addition to studying quantum machine learning that can be used to develop new materials and medicines, Aske Plaat, Professor of Data Science in Leiden, adds.

Pioneering role

Stephanie Wehner from QuTech in Delft stresses the pioneering role played by the consortium: ‘Quantum software is essential for a quantum internet. This grant means we can take bigger steps in developing and realising software applications for the future quantum internet in the Netherlands - possibly the first in the world!' 


The Quantum Software Consortium is a collaboration involving information scientists, mathematicians and physicists. The funding application was made by professors Harry Buhrman (CWI - Centre for Maths and Information Science, University of Amsterdam, coordinator), Dirk Bouwmeester (Leiden University), Ronald Cramer (Leiden University, CWI), Ronald Hanson (QuTech, TU Delft), Stephanie Wehner (QuTech, TU Delft) and Ronald de Wolf (CWI, University of Amsterdam).


The Gravitation programme is funded by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (OCW). This year there were 37 applications for Gravitation funding. Minister Bussemaker made a total amountof 112.8 million euros available for the Gravitation programme, the aim of which is to promote world-class research in the Netherlands. The Netherlands Oganisation for Scientic Research (NWO) advised on the selection of the research groups. NWO set up an international committee of independent leading researchers with broad knowledge of scientific developments and experience with large research consortia to evaluate the proposals. 


The Gravitation programme is a vehicle for OCW and NWO to give an incentive to collaboration at the highest levels within the scientific world. Within the consortia selected, scientists from different knowledge institutions work together to set up excellent, long-term and large-scale scientific research programmes.