Dr. Andre Luckow, Head of the Department for New Technologies at BMW Group IT, on the subject of quantum computing for the industry
The industrialisation of quantum computing requires not only basic technology, but also a functioning market, says Dr. Andre Luckow, Head of the Department for New Technologies at BMW Group IT. In this interview, he explains how QUTAC intends to strengthen the development of industrial applications and how the BMW Group, both within the consortium and beyond, is involved in the field of quantum computing.
Dr. Andre Luckow, Head of the Department for New Technologies at BMW Group IT . © Leon Raule
Dr. Luckow, the European Quantum Technologies Flagship consists of more than 20 projects. An industrial consortium already exists with the associated Quantum Industry Consortium (QuIC). Does it even need QUTAC?
The variety of initiatives only proves the enormous potential of this technology – and the need to establish viable partnerships. QUTAC wishes to strengthen the position of the German economy in quantum computing. We do, of course, also see the need for cooperation at a European level. QuIC has a broad focus and unites the entire spectrum, from major business enterprises to medium-sized companies, start-ups, and research institutes. QUTAC concentrates its attention on Germany and on the field of industrial application. We are confident that we will supplement the work of QuIC and other initiatives in a meaningful way.
Why is it so important for Europe to focus on specific industrial applications?
We must understand the topic of quantum computing holistically. Its industrialisation not only requires the technology, but a market as well. Thus, we need to develop applications that offer specific advantages to businesses. Only markets make the development of quantum solutions economically attractive. Germany and Europe not only have top-level research, but also strong industries that offer promising fields of application for quantum computing, such as mechanical engineering, production, and logistics, materials research and risk management. Now we have to combine the two and create an ecosystem that utilises German and European strengths.
How exactly do the members of QUTAC cooperate?
Currently, the members of QUTAC are cooperating in working groups from materials research, production and logistics, as well as engineering and design, on the development of several applications. The BMW Group is heading the working group on production and logistics.
Which application cases is the BMW Group contributing to?
Two specific cases. First, we are devoting ourselves to robot program planning. In our plants, we employ thousands of industrial robots in production and logistics every day. The planning of robot sequences is complex and ideal for computer-supported optimisation and design techniques. Second, we are working on the optimisation of vehicle equipment for the configuration of test vehicles. With the aid of quantum computing, we intend to minimise the number of test vehicles required and at the same time guarantee a one hundred percent test coverage.
In addition to developing applications, QUTAC intends to inform and advise funding processes. How does the consortium evaluate the funding landscape in Germany today?
Germany has considerably extended its funding of quantum computing. The Federation and the States support basic research and the development of hard- and software. Different qubit technologies are to be developed in several hubs, for example. The volume of this funding is remarkable and something of which we should all be proud. At the same time, we also note that the focus is currently on developing hardware, whilst software and applications are considered less important. But these are the aspects that offer the greatest economic potential.
How does QUTAC plan to involve itself in funding processes?
QUTAC does not intend to receive any funding itself. However, we hope to inform and help to direct the allocation of funding to those avenues that promise the greatest commercial value-added – and thus, in the long term, the greatest contribution to our society.
One of the aims of QUTAC is the creation of a quantum computing ecosystem in Germany and Europe. Why does such a network help to emerge?
The creation of ecosystems is, generally speaking, a major challenge and requires stamina. It is a matter of gathering together various participants from industry, science and politics. That’s why we need a dual approach. On the one hand: A top-down approach to set up major projects, as the Federation and the States are doing at the moment. On the other hand: Decentralised efforts to awake the keenness of innovative and creative minds to enrich this ecosystem with their ideas.
Which factors will be crucial for the successful industrialisation of quantum computing in the future?
With the increasing maturity of the technology and the realisation of industry applications, the need for expert personnel will increase, too. Thus, we need to think about the qualifications and further training of our employees today. In particular, we will require people with interdisciplinary skills at the touchpoints of physics, electrical engineering, and computer science.
How is the BMW Group involved in the field of quantum computing apart from QUTAC?
We have launched several different initiatives in this field. In the context of our Quantum Computing Challenge we are currently inviting the global quantum computing community to submit solutions for specific challenges that are typical for the automobile industry and range from the positioning of sensors in automated vehicles to the configuration of test vehicles. The winners will be given the opportunity to continue working with us on these projects and bring them, if possible, to a successful conclusion.
What is the function of the new Chair of quantum algorithms and applications, which the BMW Group has funded at the Technical University of Munich (TUM)?
We wish, above all, to build a bridge between basic research and industrial application through our funding. The Chair should conduct application-oriented research on specific problems and questions in quantum computing and establish a constant transfer of knowledge and insights. The foundation was undertaken independently from QUTAC but pursues the same guiding principle. In the long term, both the entire ecosystem, and thus, of course, also QUTAC itself will profit from this strengthening of research and transfer.