National initiatives play a pivotal role in fostering quantum research and application across Switzerland with huge potential for the future.
Quantum technology, a field at the cutting edge of science and engineering, is making significant strides in Switzerland, a country known for its commitment to innovation and scientific excellence. Explore Switzerland's significant contributions to quantum technology with Swisstech as your guide.
What’s all the buzz about?
Envision a computer with such immense power that it can solve complex problems in mere seconds, tasks that would take conventional computers hundreds of years. That's the magic of quantum computing, and Switzerland is at its forefront. Swiss institutions, including world-class universities such as ETH Zurich, EPFL, the University of Geneva, and the University of Basel, have been instrumental in propelling advancements in this field.
Swiss investment in quantum research
In the last two decades, a collaboration between the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF), academic institutions, and private enterprises has invested approximately CHF 330 million (USD 360 million) into three National Centres of Competence in Research, with the most recent centre inaugurated in 2020 (source swissinfo.ch). In addition, the Swiss Quantum Initiative was launched last year to further strengthen efforts in quantum technology and to solidify Switzerland’s position among leading nations in quantum research and innovation.
These national research initiatives have established Switzerland as a hub for an extensive array of innovative research projects:
Renowned for its advanced research in quantum communication and cryptography, the University of Geneva (UNIGE) has established a unique position in the field of quantum technology, particularly in secure communication. Through its Geneva Quantum Centre, the University's work goes beyond theoretical exploration and ventures into practical applications that promise to reshape the way secure communications are understood and implemented worldwide.
Launched in 2020, the Quantum Center at ETH Zurich comprises 30 research groups from six departments. It links quantum research and teaching across ETH departments and serves as a Zurich-wide contact point for larger projects.
The ETHZ-PSI Quantum Computing Hub was established in May 2021 as a joint centre for the development of quantum computers. The Hub’s central aim is to target the technical and scientific challenges on the way to realizing large-scale quantum computers based on both superconducting circuits and trapped ions.
EPFL’s Center for Quantum Science and Engineering operates as a hub to establish and promote programs for cross-disciplinary research, education and innovation in the fields of quantum science and engineering at EPFL. The centre promotes and supports collaborative research in its key focus areas "applied quantum algorithms and data science" and "quantum hardware materials and systems".
Commercial success for quantum technology
Given the concentration of research in this area, it's evident that economic interest is intensifying, given the potential to revolutionise industries in the following fields:
- Quantum computing promises to solve complex problems far beyond the reach of conventional computers, offering advances in drug discovery, materials science and optimisation problems.
- Quantum cryptography brings a new level of security to data transmission, which is attractive to sectors such as finance, defence and telecommunications.
- Quantum sensing is an advanced sensor technology that detects changes in motion, and electric and magnetic fields, by collecting data at the atomic level. It can have huge impacts in applications in navigation, geological surveying and medical imaging.
ID Quantique is a prime example of a company that has successfully transformed theoretical concepts into a successful business model. The spin-off of the Geneva Quantum Centre has been developing solutions in the field of quantum cryptography for the last 20 years and has become a world leader in its field. Another promising company is Basel-based Qnami. It manufactures quantum sensors that are able to measure magnetic fields at the nanoscale up to 100 times more accurate than conventional sensors. A third example emerged from Swiss quantum research is Alpes Laser with its quantum cascade lasers. This type of infrared laser displays unrivalled precision in detecting and analysing gases and other chemicals.
Last but not least, QuantumBasel is the first commercially viable quantum centre in Switzerland. It offers companies, start-ups and leading research institutes access to quantum computing and high-performance computing, working closely with IBM.
Swiss multilateral initiative
The Swiss government's support for quantum technology research also takes place at the multilateral level. It has recognised the potential of these technologies early on and is actively involved in the founding of the Open Quantum Institute. The core mission of this multilateral, cross-sector science diplomacy initiative is to create a market of quantum use cases for the SDGs by 2026.