Quantum computing: central point of contact for potential users

25 May 2022

The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) is backing the construction of a nationwide network. LMU computer scientist Claudia Linnhoff-Popien is coordinating the large-scale project.

Quantum computing platform | © LMU

Although the acronym sounds a bit like the word “cocooning,” it means the exact opposite: It refers to a platform for networking, for sharing knowledge. QuCUN stands for Quantum Computing User Network, a broad-ranging new joint project to create a central point of contact for users of quantum computing in Germany. According to the plan, this will result in a network, an “ecosystem” that will give German industry easy access to quantum computing.

To date, explains LMU professor of informatics Claudia Linnhoff-Popien, when it comes to the subject of quantum computing, almost everything is focused on the hardware – on the development of quantum computers that one day will be superior to conventional computers in a whole range of application fields. QuCUN, by contrast, pursues a user-oriented approach: How will the computers be programmed? How will they be used to compute and solve a huge variety of optimization problems? What IT and what software are required?

From the foundations to the market

The large-scale project is being supported by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). As part of its program “Quantum technologies – from the foundations to the market” (Quantentechnologien – von den Grundlagen zum Markt), the ministry has awarded QuCUN over ten million euros in funding over the five-year term of the project until the end of 2026. Overall, the project has a budget of 14.2 million euros. Claudia Linnhoff-Popien, Chair of Mobile and Distributed Systems[D1] , is project coordinator. As well as the Institute of Informatics at LMU, the software company SAP SE (Walldorf), the chemical corporation BASF SE (Ludwigshafen), and the start-up Aqarios GmbH (Munich) are all on board.

Platform as a central point of entry

“In a few years, the so-called quantum advantage, which will open the door to a concrete, user-oriented utilization of quantum computing, will probably be obtainable,” predicts Linnhoff-Popien. But to be able to derive a competitive advantage from it, barriers have to be dismantled in the operation, programming and use of quantum computers. The new user network is to make a decisive contribution here. For example, it will facilitate the creation of corresponding development tools and standardizations in order to curtail the disorderly proliferation of different systems and thus stem the fragmentation of technological approaches. “If companies successfully accomplish the low-threshold entry to the new technology,” says Linnhoff-Popien, “the long-term competitiveness of the economy in Germany in this field can be secured.”

The new QuCUN platform is designed to give potential quantum computing users – from SMEs to industrial giants – a central point of entry. “It offers services, specialist knowledge and practical support to get industrial partners fit and ready for quantum computing,” promises Linnhoff-Popien.

In addition, the specialists involved in the project will design a software platform with a cloud interface that enables users to easily access quantum algorithms and build on and expand them. The platform will also contain a library with best practices for solution design, algorithms and development tools so as to facilitate access to this pioneering technology. On top of this, it will have a library with a selection of standard use cases and the corresponding solution strategies, both at the process and at the algorithmic level. Equally, further experiences emerging from the project will be worked up and made available on the platform. All this should allow companies, for example, to quickly accumulate initial experiences with this new technology without having to pour excessive resources into it.

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