Monday, January 17

“In five years we want a competitive computer”

Germany is providing two billion euros for quantum computers. Government advisor Peter Leibinger explains what should be done with it.

Peter Leibinger

Peter Leibinger

UIn the technology of tomorrow, fierce competition has broken out. Quantum computers are right at the top of the agenda – in America, China, Japan and Europe. The states invest large sums in basic research.

The federal government has now provided a further two billion euros. There is now an ambitious roadmap for their use. Companies like VW, Zeiss, Trumpf and Böhringer Ingelheim are already looking for applications, IT companies like Google and IBM are already building the first computers.

Second generation quantum technology is now making its way from research institutes to business. She no longer wants to use quantum mechanical effects passively, but actively produce them. But that is extremely complicated – because the world of the smallest particles knows its own laws.

Peter Leibinger (54), spokesman for the Federal Government’s Quantum Computing Expert Council, engineer and responsible for research and development, sales and service, the establishment and expansion of new business areas at the Swabian mechanical engineering company Trumpf, explains what the roadmap looks like and what should be done now.

Mr. Leibinger, Germany has so far played a leading role in the research and development of quantum technology. Given the enormous resources that the Americans and Chinese are pumping into these fields of research, do we have the strength to continue to play among the front runners?

Yes. We got on the ball early on here, and as part of its economic stimulus package last year, the German government announced that it would invest a further two billion euros in research and development of quantum computing by 2024.

And that is enough?

This is a really big step. Because a lot of basic technology is being developed that is also needed for other quantum technologies. Over the past few years, we in Germany have invested a two- to three-digit million amount annually in research and developments in photonics, i.e. the technical use of light. Photonic quantum technology is a sub-area of ​​this. That sounds like a lot at first, but photonics is also a large field. Now there is an additional two billion euros for quantum technology alone. And that’s good.

Detailed view of the European quantum computerDetailed view of the European quantum computer
Detailed view of the European quantum computer “OpenSuperQ” in the research laboratory in Jülich: Image: Photo FZ-Jülich

This funding pot is one of the largest of its kind in this country. How is it served?

We have top institutes and very research-intensive companies. That costs a lot of money. The Chancellery has set up a joint expert council so that the individual departments do not go their separate ways, so that the industry is at the table from the beginning and so that we get quick and good results.

Is there anything to be expected on the product side?

The first products that we expect will probably come from quantum sensors and quantum imaging, i.e. projection technology and imaging processes in medicine. That could change daily life. In addition, quantum technology will soon play a central role in cryptography, i.e. in the encryption of data.

In America and China, it is primarily the military and the aviation industry that are involved. How is it in Europe?

Both industries are close to each other. This is the case in America, in China – and to a certain extent in Europe too. We just have to be part of this development in order to remain sovereign and autonomous and not to become dependent.