QuantumReady – Entanglement with the future

Quantum computers have the potential to revolutionize the digital world. This technology is developing rapidly from basic research to industrial use, as first promising applications show. To enable Austrian companies to experiment with and benefit from this new technology at an early stage, the pioneering project QuantumReady was launched in January 2023.

In this 3-year collaborative project, researchers from the Software Competence Center Hagenberg (SCCH) are working together with quantum computer scientists from Johannes Kepler University Linz and the industry partners ESS Engineering Software Steyr GmbH, HAKOM Time Series GmbH and QMware Austria GmbH to prepare industry for the opportunities and challenges of the coming quantum computing era.

The project is funded by Quantum Austria, an initiative of the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research (BMBWF), via the Austrian Research Promotion Agency FFG.

Project QuantumReady, project team at the kick-off meeting in Hagenberg (L-R): DI Michael Doleschal (QMware), Dr. Chong Peng (ESS), Dr. Flavio Ferrarotti (SCCH), Jalal El-Youssef, BBA (QMware), Prof. Dr. Robert Wille (SCCH), Mag. Rudolf Ramler (SCCH), Dr. Ricardo Wickert (HAKOM), Mag. Sabine Stockinger (SCCH), Prof. Dr. Richard Küng (JKU)

The current quantum hardware is reminiscent of the pioneering days of the computer – low performance, unreliable and the size of a room. But as history teaches us, it won’t stay that way. In the future, quantum computers will be able to solve certain tasks much faster than conventional computers ever could. However, this advantage – also called “quantum supremacy” – cannot yet be put into practice today. Why? Because physics still has to answer a number of development questions in order to get a better grip on the error-proneness of today’s quantum computers with increasing computing times and increasing number of quantum bits. But the quantum pioneers agree: quantum computing will be commercially viable in the near future – especially because there has been good progress recently in universal algorithms for quantum computing.

“Quantum computers will arrive in practice in the next few years. It’s important to prepare today and build up the knowledge to benefit when the hardware is available.” Prof. Dr. Robert Wille

How to harness the potential of quantum computers?

The project QuantumReady was initiated to raise the application potential of future quantum computers especially for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and to jointly work on the development strategies for their practical use. Currently, it is mainly large, internationally active, financially strong companies that are experimenting with quantum computing. These multinational players are not only hoping to gain a technical edge through their involvement; they are much more focused on topic leadership, in line with the motto: “Those who experiment today won’t have to catch up tomorrow.”

Quantum computing also offers enormous potential for the typical small and medium-sized enterprises that are the backbone of the Austrian and European industrial landscape. Many of these companies are world market leaders in their application domains. In order not to lose the competitive advantage through new technologies but, on the contrary, to push it further, it is important that SMEs in particular gain an overview of possible application areas early on. Hence, they can prepare themselves in the best possible way for the opportunities of quantum computing.

The project results from QuantumReady are intended to help SMEs better assess whether and to what extent quantum computers will benefit them. And if so, how they can implement corresponding applications in an optimal and economically compatible way so as not to lose the technological connection. QuantumReady functions here as an interface between interdisciplinary basic research and concrete industrial application with knowledge and technology transfer.

The goal: The path to practical application

In the QuantumReady project, SCCH is working together with the Johannes Kepler University Linz on various industrial use cases of the project partners ESS Engineering Software Steyr in Upper Austria and HAKOM Time Series GmbH in Vienna. Selected problems from the areas of simulation, optimisation and time series prediction are being investigated. The developed solution approaches and algorithms are implemented and tested on real quantum computers with the support of QMware Austria GmbH. The goal is to find out which concrete advantages quantum computers can offer for these applications and how their potential can be realised by means of different quantum computing architectures and algorithms.

For HAKOM Time Series, whose data management platform is used in the entire value chain of the energy industry, the expectation is therefore high. Smart meters, electric vehicles and distributed power producers are creating an exponentially increasing amount of data with growing demands on the necessary storage and computing infrastructure. New use cases require processing more and more data in ever less time, and quantum algorithms are a promising way to meet these challenges.

“Our customers in energy trading and power generation also already expressed interest in exploring alternatives beyond classical computing. In the QuantumReady project, we want to explore ways in which our PowerTSM platform can be integrated into future quantum computing architectures.” Dr. Ricardo Wickert, Head of Research and Development at HAKOM Time Series GmbH

The experience gained and the tried and tested solution in the QuantumReady project are intended to benefit as many companies as possible, primarily SMEs. With a clear focus on this target group, the project investigates how a problem must be characterized to benefit from quantum computing, which factors must be taken into account for efficient implementation, which quantum computing platforms are best suited, and how to test initial solution approaches through simulation and implementation on real quantum hardware in order to quantify the advantages that can actually be achieved over classical approaches. In short: Companies will be well prepared for the possible quantum age.

Research infrastructure for quantum applications

For testing the various proposed solutions, SCCH together with QMware Austria GmbH is establishing a powerful high-performance computing infrastructure for the project. SCCH is providing access to its in-house high-performance computing cluster (based on an HPE Apollo 6500 gen10 plus system). It allows to simulate quantum circuits and, thus, to test different implementations of quantum algorithms – even before they are executed on real quantum computers. This allows solutions to be quickly evaluated for their practical suitability. QMware is the technology partner for hybrid quantum computing systems and supports implementations and experiments by providing access to hybrid quantum computers in the cloud, which today are already used as basis for first industrial applications.

The project QuantumReady is part of the research area “Emerging Technologies” at SCCH. From the research point of view, this project makes an important contribution through its real-world use cases and their implementation since previous results from theoretical research can be evaluated on practical problems. The results allow future research to be advanced in an even more targeted manner and to be developed further in the direction of industrial application. Thus, this project exactly meets the objective of application-oriented research: knowledge and technology transfer in both directions – from research to practice and back again.

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