The Netherlands as an international centre for quantum technology
State secretary Mona Keijzer received the National Agenda on Quantum Technology from Robbert Dijkgraaf on 16 September. With this agenda, Dutch knowledge institutes and high-tech companies identify what is needed to maintain and strengthen the Dutch pioneering role in this area. Researchers from Leiden University are among the participants.
The Netherlands is now one of the leading players in quantum technology, which is developing rapidly worldwide. With quantum computers and networks, applications that are unreachable for ordinary computers and today’s internet will come into view and a whole new high-tech industry may emerge. At the request of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate, knowledge institutes and high-tech companies have identified what is needed to keep the Netherlands at the forefront of quantum.
Robbert Dijkgraaf, Director and Professor at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton: ‘After decades of research, we are now ready for the breakthrough of quantum technology, based on the fundamental laws of nature. This will radically change the high-tech industry and improve our lives in dramatic and unforeseen ways.’ The agenda is ambitious, concrete and realistic, he adds. ‘The Netherlands has a unique opportunity to become a world leader NOW and I advise the government to proceed with this as a matter of priority.’
Mona Keijzer, state secretary for Economic Affairs and Climate Policy: ‘I am convinced that quantum is one of the key technologies for our future, one that will contribute to a healthy economy and a better world.’
Right time for quantum
The national agenda comes at the right time, says Carlo Beenakker, professor of theoretical physics at the Lorentz Institute at Leiden University. ‘The quantum computer has recently been introduced as a prototype, now it is a matter of developing applications that make a difference. The Leiden aQa (Applied Quantum Algorithms) platform wants to act as a bridge between these developers and users who are asking the question how the quantum computer can be used for their specific applications.’ (See also: ‘Quantum in Leiden’.)
The promises of quantum: from medicines to nutrition
Quantum computers, simulators, communication systems and sensors can help to solve societal challenges and provide opportunities for all sectors of the economy. They can perform many operations simultaneously and as a result are able to solve difficult problems much faster than conventional computers. A quantum computer that can simulate the precise behaviour of molecules, for instance, could allow us to develop new medicines, better batteries, more powerful fertilisers or healthier nutrition. Larger quantum computers could provide boosts to AI algorithms leading to more efficient factory protocols, and better ways to resolve traffic congestions, reducing our carbon footprint.
Quantum Delta NL
The National Agenda on Quantum Technology aims to position the Netherlands as a leading international centre and hub for quantum technology: Quantum Delta NL, or QΔNL for short. The starting position is excellent: Dutch universities and knowledge institutes are leaders in the field of qubits, quantum internet, quantum algorithms and post-quantum cryptography, serving as a magnet for global business investments and talent. To strengthen this position, not only investments in research and innovation are needed, according to the plan. Work must also be done, for example, on infrastructure, education and a social dialogue on quantum technology.
Quantum in Leiden
aQa, the Applied Quantum Algorithms platform, is a Leiden interdepartmental initiative, connecting researchers from physics, computer science, chemistry and mathematics, explain Vedran Dunjko and Thomas O'Brien, the two aQa initiators. ‘We are brought together by the drive to make quantum computation practical. This requires progress on the entire quantum computer pipeline, as we call it: the development of idealised theoretical algorithms, the estimation of algorithm performance in real-world-relevant case-studies, the optimisation of prototype examples for the parameters of currently available real-world devices, and their actual implementation in these devices.’ This pipeline crosses multiple disciplines and its realisation calls for a concerted effort, says Dunjko. ‘The aQa interdisciplinary platform was envisioned to address this need.’
Many scientists will benefit from aQa. ‘Algorithm theory researchers need to develop their algorithms with real-world constraints, and objectives in mind. Physicists need to develop methods to implement those specific algorithms on the actually available machines. Experts in chemistry and artificial intelligence need to provide suitable case-studies which are well-matched with the specificities of near-term quantum computing architectures to realize their potential. In short, we all need to work together, and aQa will facilitate this,’ explains O'Brien.