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Please give us a little introduction on your current role and what you do.
I am an ecosystem partner at Switzerland Innovation Park Innovaare SIP Innovaare, Switzerland’s top Deep-Tech Innovation Hub, located at the campus of Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI), with globally leading centers of excellence in Integrated Photonics, Quantum Technologies, Life Science, Advanced Manufacturing and Semiconductor Technologies. My role is two-fold: help building the ecosystem, as well as identifying global organizations that can benefit from being a part of SIP Innovaare ecosystem.
What do you consider your biggest professional achievement to date?
It is hard to point at a specific one; however, one of my main guiding principles in ecosystem building is global connectivity. In that context, I helped the expansion of MassChallenge startup accelerator by co-founding public-private partnerships: MassChallenge Israel in Jerusalem, MassChallenge Switzerland in Lausanne.
What are you most excited about for quantum in 2023? What predictions do you have for the year ahead?
One of the main challenges of Quantum Technologies is that predictions are hard to make, especially pinpointing the right timing. In general, there is large excitement to be seen on the perspectives and outlook of quantum technologies together with the first viable use cases arising (e.g. *QRNG). With computing, sensing, and communication, there are various application spaces at different TRL’s. Nonetheless, in the scientific as well as in the business world there is caution about the prevalent direction of development and actual usability of quantum technology for the industry in the next few years. Still, as most specialists agree, we should expect significant breakthroughs in the next 5-15 years and there is always a chance of a near-term surprise in any of the three areas mentioned.
*ORNG Quantum Random Number Generator
Where does your organization sit within the quantum ecosystem?
Park Innovaare is located at the PSI Campus, with PSI (Switzerland’s National Lab, a federal institution of the ETH Domain) as a key founding partner. As such, we are ecosystem enablers, primarily connecting industry and research at low TRL, leveraging PSI’s experience in making its large-scale facilities available and accessible to third parties. As an example, the Quantum Computing Hub (QCH), founded by ETH Zurich and PSI, is establishing a Quantum Computing testbed, that allows for unprecedented hardware and software level access for testing, benchmarking and collaborative development of technologies in the Quantum Computing and peripheral space – enabled by the setting at the national lab. In addition, it intends making its systems available for software, algorithm and application testing and development. PSI also has close connections to the Swiss Supercomputing Center(CSCS) and developed a platform for simulating quantum computers using a variety of software environments that can be deployed on HPC environments like the upcoming PetaFLOPS “ALPS” machine.
Will 2023 be a year we come closer to quantum advantage for enterprises. If so, how?
Again, pinpointing the right time is challenging; it could be 2023, or 2024, or later… technology is consistently getting closer to implementations; however, exploration is now the name of the game rather than implementation. This highlights the need for hardware and software developers to work closely with researchers at this exploratory stage. While this holds for quantum computing, in quantum sensing and cryptography some applications already have an advantage accessible through commercial offerings. For example, PSI’s new vibration-free cleanroom located at SIP Innovaare and various research divisions within PSI are very well positioned in the technology space that is required to further advance quantum sensors. QZabre and Qnami are two Swiss example companies that provide relevant solutions.
What do you think the key challenges of working with quantum in the NISQ era is?
NISQ (Noisy Intermediate-Scale Quantum) encapsulates the optimism that a quantum advantage for a problem of relevance can be obtained even with today’s noisy, error-prone devices. After all, basic science experiments using quantum devices have already ventured into spaces that can no longer be investigated using classical computers and algorithms known today. Whether such a feat will be possible in the near-term for a problem relevant to industry remains to be seen, but there is certainly reason to remain hopeful. The hard long road is, of course, via fault-tolerant quantum computers that employ quantum error correction (QEC) to reliably deliver on the promise of computing the quantum way. Lots of progress is being made in this space with the first true logical qubit prototypes (proof-of-concept demonstrations protecting against all dominant errors) shown only very recently. The pursuit of technological progress required to implement QEC constantly extends the reach of NISQ devices and improves their performance, so these two seemingly separate tracks actually go hand-in-hand.
How many qubits do you see us reaching in the next year to 18 months? Will they make a difference?
That’s a good question and the answer very much depends on what “qubits” we are talking about – physical or logical? It also depends on the connectivity between those qubits as, e.g., it is possible to hold one million perfect atomic qubits in a device, just not to control them individually. Or equally, one company demonstrated 1000+ individually controlled qubits already, just at low connectivity and not very high coherence – so this really depends. I believe that we will see advances on the logical qubit front, lower error rates and better protocols that can achieve those more efficiently as more physical qubits are brought together to realize quantum error correction.
How do you think quantum will impact on cyber-security? Do enterprises need to be approaching this challenge now, or is that hype?
With the power of quantum computing, major encryption protocols such as RSA could be deciphered in hours rather than hundreds of years. So, yes, it will have a dramatic impact on every enterprise. But again, the big question is on the right timing. It can happen in 2 years, or 10 years, or 20 years; no one has the answers. So large organizations – financial, defence, and others – need to have a finger on the pulse of Quantum Technology so that they know to answer the timing question with enough time in advance to be ready for it. Whether you are impacted depends also on how long your information needs to remain private: if it needs to remain private for, say, 20 years – then the impact is already taking place.
In terms of finding the right talent: how are you going about the looking for the best people to work on your product?
Finding the right talent is indeed one of the major challenges. There are three main categories of talent: The first one is core technology talent – physicists and the like. The second are “regular” electronics and software engineers that have expertise in quantum environments. The third are “Deep-Tech” engineers that can actually build the QC environment [Cryogenics, Photonics etc.]. SIP Innovaare is ideally positioned to help its members with these 3 categories, leveraging multi-disciplinary fundamental research at PSI (and other institutions in the ETH domain), applied research at FHNW (University of Applied Science Northern Switzerland), a key founding member of SIP Innovaare, and engineering skills (such as those needed to build PSI’s particle accelerator) across the Swiss ecosystem.
Do you see quantum as a service becoming a major trend? Do you think most quantum will be from the cloud?
Currently, Quantum Computing as a service is an intermediate fix for the current exploratory nature of Quantum Technology. It is quite clear that once we have robust quantum offering, it will be offered from the cloud, taking advantages of economies of scale, and overcoming barriers of entrance. However, for the current exploratory stage, it is important to have hands-on experience in a real quantum environment. The Quantum Computing Hub by PSI and ETH already has two experimental platforms up and running, based on Superconducting Circuits and Trapped Ions.
How do you see quantum working with AI and machine learning?
The power of AI is heavily dependent on computing power. We see today major semiconductor companies develop GPUs and other AI-dedicated processors. Quantum Computing will enable AI a major leap forward, in ways we cannot even imagine today.
What are you looking to showcase at our show in Boston this April?
I am looking forward to showing the appeal of SIP Innovaare as a major Quantum Computing ecosystem. With PSI’s ~2000 scientists and engineers working on a variety of relevant technologies (Photonics, Cryogenics, Energy, Material Analytics and more), the Quantum Computing Hub of PSI & ETH, and the Quantum Computing ecosystem by SIP Innovaare members –has the critical mass and momentum to support the exploratory nature of quantum technology today and enable close interaction between industry and research across low, medium, and high TRL.
Who are you looking forward to meeting?
I am looking forward to meeting old and new friends of the global Quantum community. Looks like this event has been successful in facilitating this tightly connected community.
Quantum.Tech covers quantum computing, cryptography as well as sensing; what area are you most excited about and why?
They are all interesting. The implementation of quantum sensing is closer than quantum computing It is great that the event covers all those fields, showing the value of quantum technology to very different fields. Computing clearly is a hot topic and something we pursue broadly with the QCHub at PSI, where efforts are focussed both on the long-term R&D in terms of error correction and different qubit modalities, as well as near-term exploration with partners from academia and industry. I am also very interested in sensing, where we can already see an impact today, e.g. with the quantum sensing solutions by SIP Innovaare member Qnami. Lastly, Quantum Cryptography is a field where – for example - Swiss company IDQuantique has already paved the way for two decades, even before it became more mainstream. I am excited to hear about the latest developments and use-cases in the commercial sector. So, after all, it’s hard to pick one as they are all exciting, at different *TRLs and therefore of interest to different industrial partners.
*TRL Technology Readiness Level