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Bosch boss calls for quantum commitment

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By Nick Flaherty


The head of Bosch has called for more support for collaboration for a European quantum technology platform. He has committed the company to the development of quantum technologies for sensors and computing for finding new materials for automotive powertrain designs.

Dr Volkmar Denner, chairman of Robert Bosch has called for European industry to establish its own hardware platform for quantum computing. Companies such as Infineon are developing quantum processors and the European Space Agency and HiPEAC are both promoting quantum computing institutes in Europe.

“Most of the pioneering progress in quantum physics was made in Europe, and we have to do all we can to ensure that quantum technology is not just an American and Asian success story, but a European one as well,” said Denner who is chairman of the board of management of Robert Bosch GmbH and a limited partner of Robert Bosch Industrietreuhand that controls the company. A former head of R&D at the company, he is also He is also responsible for the Bosch Healthcare Solutions GmbH subsidiary and the Bosch business in China. 

He calls for Germany to step up its collaboration with smaller countries such as Austria, the Netherlands, and Switzerland, which have already scored success in the field. But just as with other pioneering technologies, the overriding priority is an exchange between science and business at an earlier stage and in greater depth than up to now he says. This is despite the €1bn, ten year pan-European Quantum Flagship project that was set up in 2018 to coordinate and drive research and development.

“Quantum computers are several years away from commercial applications [but] if it wants to play a leading technological role in the decades to come, European industry should set up its own hardware platform for quantum computing,” he said.

Next: Quantum medical sensors 


“Above all, it has to move early to develop applications. One such application that is interesting for Bosch is the simulation of new materials, right down to their atomic structure — something that even today’s supercomputers cannot do,” he said. “The result could include new catalyst materials that significantly reduce the need for precious metals in fuel-cell systems. This would be a huge leap forward for the development of CO2-neutral powertrains.

Denner also points to advances in medical sensors using doped diamond substrates.

“Quantum sensor technology can help push the boundaries of medical diagnosis. This is also a subject of Bosch research. Diamond flaws are the basis for measurements of unprecedented accuracy. These nitrogen-vacancy centres are highly sensitive to the tiniest changes in magnetic fields, such as the changes that occur in neurological disorders. They also allow the development of quantum sensors that could take the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, epilepsy, and Parkinson’s to a new level over the next few years — making it more accurate, simpler, and, not least, more affordable than ever.

This would allow more accurate identification of the affected brain regions without the ned for supercooled superconducting magnetometers. The quantum sensors work at room temperature, and require no cooling. A demonstration system in the lab at Bosch is the size of a laptop but can be reduced to a board and a chip that costs no more than a few euros. This would create a revolution in neurological diagnosis, says Denner.

Bosch is also working on a quantum gyroscope that can be 100 times more precise than MEMS sensors for driverless cars.

He also points to quantum photonics and encryption, where European researchers lead developments. “The aim is to integrate [this] on a chip to make data traffic on the internet of things quantum-safe. It is in applications such as these that Europe can take the lead,” he said.

He points to the €2bn backing from the German government for quantum technology development. The French government has also committed to fund developments in quantum technology.

“This is an important step. But it should give us pause for thought that China intends to spend ten billion euros over the next few years on promoting quantum technology. We must not allow the result to be the same European paradox we have seen in other fields of technology: basic research is done in Europe, but all too frequently it is in other regions of the world that this is transformed into successful products. What is already telling is that the EU is ahead of China and the U.S. in terms of scientific publications about quantum technology, but way behind when it comes to patents,” he said.

The European quantum industry consortium set up at the beginning of February as part of the Quantum Flagship is a step in the right direction, he says, but will require industrial policy to provide support. “In few other areas is such support as important as in quantum technology, which holds out the promise of disruptive market success on the one hand, but requires staying power on the other,” he said.

www.bosch.com

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