Royal Visit Puts Quantum Technology on the Agenda

During their visit to Oslo Science City on May 14th, the Danish royal couple met with leading Norwegian researchers in quantum and sensor technology. The royal visit marks the beginning of extensive Norwegian-Danish collaboration in the field.

Published: 14. mai 2024

Oslo Science City dressed up for a royal visit on May 14th. During the Danish royal couple's inaugural visit to Norway, one of their stops was the innovation district and the MiNaLab laboratory, a collaborative effort between the University of Oslo and the research institute SINTEF. The main theme for the visit was quantum and sensor technology, with the presence of not only the Danish royal couple but also the Norwegian Crown Prince and Crown Princess, alongside a total of five Danish and Norwegian ministers.

Discussions during the visit revealed a strong mutual desire to foster stronger Danish-Norwegian collaboration in critical emerging technologies such as quantum technology, where Oslo Sciece City is home to several leading research groups. Globally, competition in this field is intense. Approximately $40 billion has been invested in public funds in quantum technology, according to the World Economic Forum, with fifteen billion originating from the Chinese government alone.

Idar Kreutzer, Area Director at the Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise (NHO), recognizes quantum technology's significant strategic importance in terms of national security, business competitiveness, and public service development. This is why Denmark recently developed a national strategy for quantum technology. Kreutzer emphasizes the importance of Norway also focusing on such emerging technologies:

"Norway harbors several outstanding academic communities and should aspire to establish strong positions in fundamental research and practical application of quantum technology," stresses Kreutzer.

Values of $2 trillion dollars

The advent of quantum computers will empower us to tackle complex tasks that classical computers cannot handle. For instance, this technology's potency raises concerns that it could compromise most contemporary encryption methods. Quantum systems also hold immense promise in sensor technology, offering significantly more precise and advanced measurements of the physical world, which can further propel the digitization of society. Consultancy firm McKinsey estimates that quantum technology could generate values of two trillion dollars globally by 2035.

In recent years, Denmark has made billion-dollar investments in quantum technology, both publicly and through private actors like the Novo Nordisk Foundation. While investments on the Norwegian side are currently smaller, quantum technology has been highlighted as a priority in the long-term plan for research and higher education.

Making Norway "quantum ready"

The University of Oslo and SINTEF, both members of Oslo Science City, are pivotal knowledge hubs in Norway's quantum field. Among their collaborations is MiNaLab (Micro- and Nanotechnology Laboratory), one of Norway's most advanced laboratories and part of the national infrastructure for micro- and nanofabrication. Alongside NTNU, they are also key partners in the Gemini Center for Quantum Computing, aiming to make Norway "quantum ready."

Alexandra Bech Gjørv, CEO of SINTEF, explains that the research institute has strategically focused on quantum technology since 2019, utilizing both internal strategic funds and accumulating a significant portfolio of externally funded projects with internationally leading research institutions. The institute has cultivated expertise in solving intricate optimization problems with quantum computers.

"For Norway to genuinely become 'quantum ready,' we must devise effective strategies for leveraging this technology optimally in business, public administration, and defense," states Bech Gjørv.

Leveraging a world-leading position

SINTEF also delves into the hardware aspect of the quantum field, building on its leading research groups in sensor technology. This is based on SINTEF research dating back to the 1960s, which has evolved into a world-leading position in areas such as pressure and radiation detectors.

Presently, researchers from the university and SINTEF are aiming at developing miniaturized quantum systems operable at room temperature. This holds great potential, for instance for sensor applications, since "traditional" quantum systems relying on superconductors necessitate temperatures approaching absolute zero at -273 degrees Celsius in order to function.

Bech Gjørv underscores that such hardware development necessitates extensive and costly infrastructure. Thus, leveraging existing expertise and activity in sensor technology, where Norway already boasts a significant industry, proves advantageous.

"This is a field where the connection between researchers and the business sector is already well developed, and that's a great advantage. However, Norwegian research communities need the government to invest in further developing the expertise and infrastructure that are essential for success," asserts Bech Gjørv.

Today's research shapes tomorrow's use

Bjørn Jamtveit, Vice Dean at the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences at the University of Oslo, delineates the university's quantum technology endeavors along three axes:

  • Research, encompassing both theoretical and experimental work in semiconductor-based quantum technology and the development of algorithms for future quantum computers.
  • Education, highlighted by the recent establishment of a bachelor's program in quantum technology, alongside quantum science and technology being integral to graduate education.
  • Infrastructure, currently expanding equipment for controlling semiconductor-based quantum bits, as part of the national infrastructure for micro- and nanofabrication.

Jamtveit underscores that quantum technology remains an 'immature' technology, with today's research outcomes dictating future technological trajectories and applications.

"UiO seeks to influence these technologies through strategic investments in both fundamental research and technology development, in collaboration with the institute sector and the business community," asserts Jamtveit.

Great opportunities for Danish-Norwegian cooperation

During the Danish royal visit, the University of Oslo entered a collaboration agreement with the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen, a prominent European research institution in the quantum field. The agreement facilitates researcher exchanges and project collaborations in critical emerging technologies, with a pronounced emphasis on quantum.

Jamtveit believes that there are compelling reasons for bolstering Nordic quantum cooperation, including enhancing competitiveness in securing research funding.

"Quantum initiatives in Norway and Denmark largely complement each other and progress along parallel trajectories. I see significant potential for combining these different strengths to develop hybrid quantum platforms and other synergies," opines Jamtveit.

SINTEF also collaborates with several Danish partners in the quantum domain, including the Technical University of Denmark and the University of Southern Denmark.

Need for a clear national strategy

In Oslo Science City, quantum technology represents a strategic focus, epitomized by the establishment of a dedicated working group for quantum. Both SINTEF and the University of Oslo stress the importance of utilizing the innovation district as a collaboration platform, enabling research institutions to forge strategic alliances with private and public sector entities.

"The objective is to establish broad collaboration on quantum technology, connecting the needs of the business sector and society with research communities at the forefront of knowledge," asserts Alexandra Bech Gjørv from SINTEF.

However, she emphasizes the imperative of a clear national strategy for quantum technology, which is supported by funding for research and innovation efforts. This sentiment finds resonance with Bjørn Jamtveit from the University of Oslo:

"For Norway to partake in the development and value creation in this field, we must support the academic communities capable of pushing the research frontier and providing high-quality education. Otherwise, we risk becoming passive users of this very potent technology," he cautions.

Christine Wergeland Sørbye, CEO of Oslo Science City, views the royal visit as the onset of a Danish-Norwegian strategic focus on quantum technology, expandable to encompass other Nordic countries:

"Together, the Nordic countries have the potential to assume a leading position in the quantum field and contribute to deploying this technology in a socially beneficial manner, aligned with our shared values. We already possess a solid foundation for this in the Nordics, with robust research communities and substantial public and private funding sources. Now, we must build on this and foster a Nordic quantum success story," concludes Wergeland Sørbye.