How Dutch ecosystems help the progress of quantum technology
(Martijn Boerkamp) “Many hands make light work”. It’s an expression that is embedded in Dutch culture. And this is not different when it comes to quantum technology developments in the Netherlands. With only a population of 17 million people, the country is ranked third for scientific citations in quantum research and has the highest number of quantum based startups per capita in the world. This is a bit surprising, as it’s lacking big research funding or VC investments as those found in other countries, such as the US. However, strategic funding, such as the National Growth Fund that aims to boost the Dutch economy, can still make an impact. Because when making ideal use of the country’s small size, one can use its infrastructure for setting up a quantum ecosystem.
Quantum Delta NL
This ecosystem consists of five major hubs: Amsterdam, Delft, Leiden, Eindhoven and Twente: most of them being within a one-hour drive of each other, making it ideal for project collaboration. They are coordinated by one central organisation: Quantum Delta NL, that uses its recently received 615 million euro from the National Growth Fund to strategically fund research that fits within three catalyst programs: quantum computation, quantum networks and quantum sensing. With every hub having one university and facilities for startups to spin-out with quantum technologies, the gap between research and industry is bridged by giving start-ups a better and faster way to market by building new cleanroom facilities for startups to develop their technology as well as providing early-stage investment and providing a tailored acceleration programme.
The new initiatives can build upon a solid foundation of applied research, with several major companies, such as Microsoft and Intel, already collaborating with Dutch research centres on developing quantum computing technologies. The new program has now seen its first startup receiving early phase funding, with the startup Quantware, that designs, develops and fabricates state-of-the-art superconducting Quantum Hardware. The fund should lead to 100 quantum startups by 2027. It has also led to several industry collaborations gaining strength, as seen with last July’s live demonstration of a quantum network in action, with the Dutch telecom provider KPN as well as telecom hardware provider Cisco getting in on the action. These demonstrations are organised so that industry, banks and government agencies can come up with real-life applications for these quantum technologies.
This week saw another Dutch ecosystem getting an enormous boost with a 1.1 billion euro investment from the National Growth Fund and private investments into the central organisation ‘PhotonDelta’. The organisation aims to transform the Netherlands into the leader of next generation semiconductors for photonics. A majority of these funds will lead to developments of photonic applications for telecommunication and sensing. It is, however, news that was also widely celebrated amongst Dutch quantum technologists, due to quantum and photonics overlapping within many applications, such as quantum photonic processors. One example is the Dutch startup Quix, which recently released a record number of 20 qumodes (optical qubits) on its commercial quantum photonic processor.
This investment will be used to build 200 startups, scale up production, create new applications for photonic chips and develop infrastructure and talent. The new infrastructure will lead to a wafer production capacity of 100,000+ per year by 2030.
A properly functioning ecosystem can do more than money alone and lives by its basic principle being that ‘the whole is greater than the sum of its parts’. And with several ecosystems on the way, the Netherlands will keep forging ahead in quantum developments. It will surely lead to many great things in the years to come.
Martijn Boerkamp, PhD. Science Journalist at Cool Science Blog