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Finland invests €20m in country's first quantum computer

The computational power of the supercomputer could be useful in the development of a coronavirus vaccine.

Kvanttitietokoneissa käytettävä quantum-siru
Though China and the US have invested in quantum computer research, Europe lags behind. Image: Jan Goetz / IQM Finland

The VTT Technical Research Centre and the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment announced on Monday that the Finnish government has granted 20.7 million euros to VTT and co-innovation partner IQM to build Finland’s first quantum computer.

"By investing in disruptive technologies like quantum computing, we invest in our future ability to solve global problems and create sustainable growth," VTT's CEO, Antti Vasara, said in a press release.

Making the impossible possible

The overall goal of the project is to build a 50-qubit device by 2024. The computer will be built at VTT’s and Aalto University’s joint national research infrastructure centre Micronova in Espoo, a suburb of Helsinki. Work on the project is set to begin this year.

"Finland has the potential to be a European leader in quantum technologies. I look forward to witnessing the opportunities that quantum will present to Finnish and European businesses and the competitiveness of the entire region," Minister of Economic Affairs Mika Lintilä said in the statement.

IQM, a European leader in building quantum computers, announced the completion of a new funding round, which puts its total funding at 71 million euros. IQM was chosen for this project following an international public tender earlier this year.

"The quantum computer also provides the possibility of developing new materials and deterring cyber attacks," Lintilä said.

When asked to explain what sets a quantum computer apart from other supercomputers, VTT’s Vasara said, "it’s a machine that makes the impossible possible."

The quantum computer could solve complex problems in chemistry and physics that cannot be solved by current supercomputers.

A good example would be simulating or calculating how materials or medicinal drugs work at the atomic level, according to Vasara. A topical example relates to the development of vaccines.

"Now that a vaccine for coronavirus is being developed, it may be possible in the future to calculate exactly what a vaccine should look like directly on a quantum computer. In this way, vaccine development would proceed at a tremendous pace," Vasara said.

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