AQT, an Innsbruck-based Quantum Computing Startup, Proves Austria is More Than Just Skiing And Mozart

Europe’s QC startup scene is thriving, though the argument to which approach will bring the best results is still an open debate. AQT, an Innsbruck-based QC startup, proves Austria is not just skiing and Mozart. The green light is flashing that trapped ions can build the best quantum computers on the planet

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Photo by Nicole Baster on Unsplash

Many Opinions

Trapped ion technology in QC is one of the newer approaches and one Austrian startup aims to prove it’s a viable option in contrast to the others currently on show.

There are many opinions in the quantum computing (QC) industry, both from academics and business experts alike in the field, as to the most cost-effective approach to building a quantum computer.

Dozens of technological innovations to this conundrum, too, are being put out there, hoping one day — like Doc Brown and his Flux Capacitor — something amazing will come of it: The superconducting chip, the photonic approach, silicon-based models, topological, molecular magnet, neutral atoms, and the aptly-named Bose-Einstein condensate-based quantum computer are the gang competing against each other to get the qubits, the little microscopic objects— and the most important guys in the QC story — into workable transporters of quantum information to take our technology into a new epoch of innovation. Scientists are grafting like crazy to achieve ultimate fidelity of atoms, electrons and photons.

Exciting times, nevertheless. Choice means more leverage room, ways to fuck up and move on before the perfect modality is set.

Or as Buzz Lightyear would say:

To infinity and beyond

But we’re a long way away from that at the moment.

Quantum computing’s at the zygote stage, at the birth of a nation, in the 1940s or before in the contextual timeline of classical computing. Things will be hard, with rough roads ahead, no doubt, but with enough hard work, focus, luck, and dedication, the industry will get there.

Trapped Ions

The trapped ion quantum computer, led by the startup IonQ, is another approach to the array on offer.

While Christopher Monroe and his team in Maryland are working tirelessly to advance this technology into a viable product for the mass market, there are a few others as busy on their product.

Honeywell, whose headquarters are in North Carolina, is the sole corporation competing against startup IonQ evaluating and researching the trapped ion technology.

Yet there’s another player on the scene:

Alpine Quantum Technologies (AQT), a startup founded in 2017 and based in Innsbruck, Austria.

AQT

Co-founded by Professor Rainer Blatt, Dr Thomas Monz and Professor Peter Zoller, the team has ‘6 decades of world-wide leading-edge know-how on ion-trap quantum technologies.’

With such credentials in this approach in the industry, it’s fingers crossed whether they can make good on their promise and come up with a machine that is cost-effective, scalable and more importantly, brings quantum information science into a new age of productivity.

‘AQT realizes the first general-purpose Quantum Computer’

— AQT website

Monz is the CEO and founder of AQT. With a Ph.D. in physics from Leopold-Franzens Universität Innsbruck, he is currently a senior scientist there as well as having industry experience as a Scientific Product Specialist at M Squared Lasers.

Blatt — a professor at the University of Innsbruck, and since 2003, Scientific Director at the Institute for Quantum Optics and Quantum Information (IQOQI) of the Austrian Academy of Sciences (ÖAW) — is also a cofounder of AQT.

Professor of Physics at the Center for Quantum Physics, University of Innsbruck, Zoller, the third co-founder, has a vast amount of scientific experience in such disciplines as Theoretical Quantum Optics, Interaction of Atoms, Molecules and Ions with Electromagnetic Fields and Theory of Quantum Noise.

‘AQT realizes the first general-purpose Quantum Computer’

— AQT website

AQT’s achievements up to now have been — in cooperation with colleagues at the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC), Waterloo, Canada and the University of Innsbruck — ‘to realize a controlled-NOT gate operation’, which is, in the startup’s own words:

‘the building block for general-purpose quantum computers’.

According to Pitchbook, AQT — which is accelerator/incubator backed — has a healthy financial position, having obtained $11.2m from a recent grant.

‘I would argue there are probably five or six approaches. The two most promising for the moment are trapped ions — that is what we pursue — and superconducting systems.’

 Dr Thomas Monz’s 2019 response to the question ‘about the best way to build a quantum computer’ in the EU’s research and innovation magazine Horizon

With the EU’s €1 billion, 10-year Quantum Flagship initiative already in place, things are looking good for this Austrian-based QC startup, and the wider European market in QC.