Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

Algorithms for quantum software

Top scientists of three Dutch universities are working on software and systems for quantum computers. Researchers of the Leiden Institute of Advanced Computer Science (LIACS) and the Leiden Institute of Physics (LION) are developing new algorithms to make those super computers work. The coming years, the first quantum internet in the world must be developed. The Quantum Software Consortium received a 10 years grant for this from NWO.

2017 - 2027
Aske Plaat
NWO Gravitation NWO Gravitation

Mathematical Institute

Centrum Wiskunde en Informatica

University of Amsterdam, research group QuSoft

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Technical University Delft, research group QuTech


In 2017, the 10 year Dutch research project Quantum software started with the Gravitation grant of the Dutch Ministry of Science & Education. Physicists, mathematicians and computer scientists cooperate in the realization of an ever more powerful quantum computer that they want to develop into a workable system during the next few years.

Theory and machine learning

Aske Plaat is the scientific director of LIACS, the computer science institute of Leiden University. ‘Every group in the consortium contributes with its own expertise. LIACS is developing the new quantum algorithms and systems.’ Two areas of expertise at LIACS are the theory of computer science and machine learning. In the latter, algorithms do predictions based on the data they have collected themselves. Plaat: ‘These two research topics are specifically important. Our theory research will enable us to look at algorithms in a fundamentally different way. And with machine learning, we can optimally use the potentially enormous amounts of data from the quantum internet.’

Calculate faster

The essence of quantum computing is that it works with quantum bits, which can be zero and one at the same time. Classical computer bits are always zero or one. Plaat: ‘With classical computers, we can solve quite complicated problems quite fast. But with qubits, we can solve some problems much faster. Some solutions are even impossible to find efficiently without a quantum computer. At LIACS, we are aiming on algorithms in the so-called combinatory machine learning. These algorithms are at the basis of applications in big data.

New researchers

‘The power of this quantum software consortium is that it brings groups together. That cooperation is essential to take the big steps that are required’, says Plaat. ‘The engineers from Delft are the experts on the side of hardware. The mathematicians and computer scientists cooperate on the important application of cryptography, that is the encryption of data that will in time be sent through the quantum internet. The groups in the consortium will therefore be enforced by new scientists. ‘New tenure trackers, post-docs and PhD students will be hired, who will improve our scientific power tremendously.’

Computer scientists of the future

Quantum computing has also got through to the education programs that LIACS takes care of. Aske Plaat: ‘This spring, our teacher Florian Neukart, who is also a machine learning researcher in San Francisco, gave the first class in the world in which our master students Computer Science were able to code in a real quantum computer. This happened in a simulator of the Canadian company D-Wave. So we are now already educating the future programmers and researchers of quantum computers.’

New era

Together with Australia and the United States, the Netherlands are in the top 3 of research on quantum software and quantum internet. Plaat: ‘This first large project of 10 years is just the beginning. Quantum computers really are the next generation of computers. On top of that, the European Union has chosen quantum computing as its new flagship. At this moment, the Netherlands are at the European forefront and we aim to remain in this position. With the development of quantum computers, we are at the beginning of a new era. Just like 80 years ago, when the British scientist Alan Turing formulated the first principles of our current computers in his famous Turing machine in 1936.'

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