Expert advice: Germany must build quantum computers in a few years

An expert commission set up by the federal government has drawn up a “Quantum Computing Roadmap”. The 16 representatives from business and science demand: In five to ten years Germany must be able to “work together with its European partners to build and operate a suitable quantum computer at the forefront of international competition”.

“Our milestone: internationally competitive quantum computers with at least 100 individually controllable qubits and scaling potential to 500 qubits,” it says now published paper. The first size is seen as a prerequisite for a powerful quantum computer that can surpass conventional predecessors.

However, Google has stated that it has achieved the desired quantum superiority with 53 qubits. Last year, IBM put the Hummingbird quantum processor with 65 qubits into operation and is aiming for one with 1121 qubits by 2023. The information content in a qubit is generally higher than in a bit, which is either 0 or 1, thanks to relatable intermediate positions.

According to the timetable, the aim is to promptly demonstrate a quantum advantage for practical applications in Germany. Within ten to fifteen years, the experts strive for “error-correcting quantum computer systems for solving a universal class of problems” with exponential quantum superiority. Germany should play a leading role in this and, together with European partners, “cover the part of the value chain that is relevant for strategic independence”.

“It is not just a fascinating idea to solve tasks in the near future that today even the most powerful supercomputers fail”, write the Munich physicist Stefan Filipp and the chief technologist of the laser specialist Trumpf, Peter Leibinger, as council representatives in the foreword. This is also a must for a leading technology location: “For our high-tech industry, access to this technology can be existential.”

According to them, quantum computers have the potential to “simulate highly complex systems for the development of new types of batteries or for research into medical active ingredients”. Furthermore, they could “enable far-reaching increases in efficiency in numerous relevant applications, from the optimization of traffic flows or production processes to model calculations in climate research”.

Germany and Europe are called upon to significantly intensify their efforts in the coming years. Dealing with the topic “is definitely a question of technological sovereignty in global competition with strong competitors, especially in Asia and the USA,” it says. The council wants to “send a signal for an even closer, market-oriented alliance of business, science and politics”. The world is not waiting for Germany: “We have to start now.”

Regarding the status quo, the experts, who include well-known quantum physicists and representatives from corporations such as BASF, Bosch, Infineon and Volkswagen, state: “In Germany there is a considerable amount of relevant skills and know-how. These are, however, widely distributed and not yet economically oriented Neither individual actors nor existing consortia are in a position today to tackle the development, construction and operation of quantum computers. ”

The committee identified “gaps in scalable hardware development, system integration, the software stack” and in relevant patent applications. There are also deficits “in the availability of digital and technological infrastructure”. Furthermore, “the instruments and framework conditions for a rapid technology transfer from research to industry” were missing.

“To be successful, we have to bundle our strengths in a holistic ecosystem and coordinate activities,” emphasizes the council. “To this end, strong European partners should be involved from the start and national and European measures should be coordinated.” In September the EU Commission presented its plan for European high-performance computing, which also deals with quantum computing.

The experts recommend “the immediate competitive development of hubs and competence networks” with companies as well as universities and research institutions. In addition, the “vertical structure of a quantum computing system from technology platforms to software” should be promoted.

In addition, according to the council, a “cross-departmental umbrella organization” in the form of a German Quantum Community (DQG) is to be set up. This should not be “an authority or organization with budget responsibility”. What is needed is “a new, lightweight instrument for the comprehensive orchestration of measures” to ensure the efficient implementation of the overall strategy “quantum computers made in Germany” from a single source. Federal Research Minister Anja Karliczek (CDU) started a new, multi-million dollar initiative for quantum technologies last year, but this is not enough for the experts.

At the moment, it cannot be foreseen which technology platform will ultimately prevail, explains the council. Different approaches such as superconducting switching crises, ion traps, lattices with neutral atoms, spin qubits and photon sampling must therefore first be pursued in parallel before resources can be further focused.

The digital expert of the CDU / CSU parliamentary group, Tankred Schipanski, welcomed the proposals: “We must not allow ourselves to be dependent on the USA and China when it comes to practical application and emerging business models.” It is therefore important “that the first quantum computer in Germany goes into operation this month and can then be used intensively by German researchers.” The Christian Democrat demands: “We have to make the quantum leap.”


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