The arrival of quantum technologies promises an unprecedented revolution with strategic applications in the fields of computing and chemistry. The university is determined to engage with the world of business so that the cutting-edge quantum technologies developed in Strasbourg can be used to address issues in industry.
Quantum physics is often perceived as essentially fundamental research, but has in fact already enabled the advent of revolutionary technologies: nuclear energy, nuclear magnetic resonance for medical imaging, diodes, transistors, integrated circuits, electron microscopes, lasers, etc. An impressive track record for a field of research that promises to unleash a second wave of disruptive technology as we better understand its founding principles.
This is because super-powerful quantum computers will be able to carry out several tasks simultaneously, whereas our traditional computers approach them sequentially, one by one. This phenomenal calculating power is already being tested in several laboratories around the world, with the University of Strasbourg at the forefront.
Aware of the strategic significance of this research field in computing and chemistry, the university has just opened a brand-new research institute dedicated to the discipline: the European Centre for Quantum Sciences (CESQ). This elite institute, which is ultimately due to host 80 researchers, is positioning itself as a place of dialogue between academic and industrial researchers. Its extremely stimulating environment will also function as an innovation accelerator by providing the right conditions for the creation of start-ups.
Located on the Cronenbourg campus, the CESQ benefits from a Franco-German alliance between the University of Strasbourg and the Karlsruher Institut für Technologie (KIT).
Dr Shannon Whitlock (director of the Exotic Quantum Matter Laboratory) and Professor Guido Pupillo (director of the Theoretical Quantum Physics Laboratory and the new director of the CESQ) are coordinating the creation of a platform equipped with the very latest quantum technologies: “we wanted to establish a unique equipment platform in France, which will take advantage of the latest scientific and technological advances to make quantum computing more accessible to university researchers and to industry, both on a national and international level”.
The platform, known as aQCess (“Atomic quantum computing as a service”) will make it possible to undertake calculations that are currently impossible to perform even on the largest supercomputers. “As a genuine public installation devoted to quantum computing, aQCess will be a tool widely used for research, multi-disciplinary teaching and training, but also by companies or start-ups investing in quantum technologies,” add the two researchers, who are enthusiastic about the idea of making one of Europe’s first quantum computers accessible.
Inside the Quantum Simulator in Strasbourg.
Strasbourg’s researchers wanted to involve industry players in the major events and symposia at which the field’s leading experts gather to discuss the discipline’s latest advances and future challenges. In 2021, the start-up Qunasys and the University of Strasbourg co-hosted a conference entitled “Machine Learning for Quantum X” devoted to the recent revolutions in information technology: machine learning and quantum computing. By bringing together researchers, students and industry representatives for a week, the idea was to share ideas and experiences relating to the resolution of various problems in the fields of physics, chemistry, applied mathematics and computing. Six of the very high-level scientific talks were presented by industry figures.
In October 2022, the University of Strasbourg held the five-day “Quantum Computing for Chemistry” industrial training event for students and industry professionals (10 companies took part, including BASF and the start-up Qunasys). The programme covered the fundamentals and concrete applications of the discipline in the form of a conference and workshops. The first edition was a resounding success and a further round of training will take place in October 2023.
With the rapid development of the latest innovations in the field, industries are facing an urgent need for staff highly qualified in quantum technology. The European Spring School in Quantum Science and Technology was held in April 2022, bringing together outstanding students with researchers and experts from all across Europe. Over a week, the specific requirements inherent in quantum science applications were discussed with the companies attending, who had the opportunity to meet students. The event was a unique opportunity for industrial firms to specify their expectations as well as a talent-spotting opportunity. A second edition will take place in September 2023 near Karlsruhe.
These initiatives represent a further demonstration of the University of Strasbourg’s desire to integrate business requirements into its research strategy, an obvious way to exploit all the promising applications of quantum science to their fullest extent in the near future.
The Jean-Marie Lehn Foundation is a partner of the CESQ.