The chairman of the Skolkovo Foundation Arkady Dvorkovich took part in the fourth discussion on “Quantum Technologies Markets: Who Invests and Why?” The event was organized by the Russian Quantum Center, the Roscongress Foundation, and the State Atomic Energy Corporation Rosatom. The talk took place in a live online format and was moderated by Ruslan Yunusov of Rosatom.
Taking part in the talk were representatives from Google, Airbus, the European Quantum Technologies Flagship program, the Skolkovo Foundation and Gazprombank. The focus of the conversation was on the markets for quantum technologies, their rising influence on the global market, and the increasing demand for them among startups working in the field of quantum sensors, communications and computing. The discussion also touched upon the rising interest among governments in quantum technologies as well as existing quantum programs that are devoted to the promotion of high-tech commercial products that are based on quantum effects.
The chairman of the Skolkovo Foundation Arkady Dvorkovich took part in the fourth discussion on “Quantum Technologies Markets: Who Invests and Why?”. Image: Sk.ru
The talk kicked off with some questions from Ruslan Yunusov directed at Google’s representative, Hartmut Neven, who is an engineering director at Google. Mr. Neven stated that Google began its first quantum technologies program thirteen years ago in 2007, back when the term “quantum” was still not well known among the public.
“The original impetus to get into quantum computing came from realizing or appreciating the well-known facts that with quantum resources you can solve optimization problems faster,” said Hartmut Neven. “Machine learning is very important to Google and it is often said that machine learning is applied optimization, so if you can do optimization faster, you can do machine learning faster. Hence, a quantum processor would be a very useful resource for this. That was the original motivation to get into quantum computing, although we now know that there will be many other applications as well.”
According to Mr. Neven, Google has already begun commercializing its quantum services, having tested them internally before signing up external partners who then ran their algorithms on the company’s processors. Although it is still early days, as soon as more powerful processors come into use larger groups will be able to conduct experiments.
Google is one example of a private sector company actively working on quantum technologies, but there are many others out there, including Skolkovo’s own Russian Quantum Center, which has already gained investment from Gazprombank. And it isn’t just the private sector that is involved; government interest has increased greatly as well. European governments actively support the Quantum Technologies Flagship program, which aims to emulate the United States equivalent - the Quantum Economic Development Consortium (QEDC). Representing the Quantum Technologies Flagship program at the talk was its co-director, Tommaso Calarco, who spoke about the move to link-up industry with Europe’s top academia in the field.
“We met yesterday with colleagues from more than 150 companies across Europe who are interested in development in quantum technologies, quantum computing among them; what we are doing is creating a quantum industry consortium in Europe. We want to conduct similar activity like the QEDC in the US in which industry comes together to tap into the competence we have at the academic level in different platforms and to develop new uses in software. One example is the automotive industry in Germany, and the aerospace industry, both of which are very interested in all possible applications towards different kinds of computational problems.”
Among the many large European companies (Bosch, SAP, BMW, Volkswagen, Siemens) involved in the new sector, Airbus stands out, having created one of the first quantum technologies competitions called the “Airbus Quantum Computing Challenge.” While the company already has partners in the field, it launched the competition in January 2019 on the premise that traditional computers are approaching their limits and that the quantum computer promises to deliver a new level of computational power.
“It has been a very interesting year,” said Thierry Botter, the head of quantum technology at Airbus. “We received over a thousand applications from across the world expressing interest in taking part in the challenge. We had a frontline team of scientists and specialists that work in Airbus and externally; within that framework, we created a genuine product based on some of the applications we received.”
So where does Skolkovo fit into all this? Skolkovo’s ecosystem, which offers businesses ample room to innovate, should serve as a launchpad for companies seeking to develop the quantum sector in the Russian market.
“The Skolkovo quantum ecosystem is a system made up of a variety of elements,” said the chairman of the Skolkovo Foundation Arkady Dvorkovich. “That is, 2500 startups working under one umbrella and under the same legal basis, enjoying the advantages of the ecosystem, the laws themselves giving preferential treatment, including tax, customs and administrative advantages; there is Skoltech University, which conducts world-class research and where the Russian Quantum Center is located; then there are Skolkovo’s large partner companies, which are key elements in the roadmap for developing quantum technologies - Rosatom, Russian Railways, Rostec, other large corporations such as Rostelecom, and private companies such as Gazprombank and MTS.
The constant interaction between participants has given rise to ecosystem synergy. Using the quantum project as an example, Skolkovo can offer significant benefits to all project participants. On the one hand, companies will use the results from scientific research and feed off startups, on the other hand, it will always be a challenge for startups to solve new tasks and new interesting problems set by large companies. In addition, Skolkovo is an open ecosystem from an international point of view. We are entirely open to working with major foreign companies like Google, Airbus and many of our other partners, and we have no restrictions on working with foreign governments. I am certain that the quantum ecosystem built as part of Skolkovo will allow Russia to quickly attain the level of global leaders and in the future will be able to provide quantum superiority in certain areas.”