• Image Berlin Quantum, Brain City Berlin

    BERLIN QUANTUM: a new initiative for quantum technologies

Super-fast computers, highly sensitive sensors, secure communication and precise insights into previously invisible worlds: Quantum technology is considered to be the next big technological leap. The BERLIN QUANTUM initiative aims to make Brain City Berlin visible as an international hotspot for the research and development of quantum technologies. The location offers ideal conditions for this.

“Berlin is THE place to make quantum technologies usable, because the city has a high level of expertise in the field of quantum technologies, but also in many related areas,” says Dr. Katharina Witte. “Our goal is to create a competitive ecosystem for the research, development and application of quantum technologies. As quantum technologies are very research and science-driven, Berlin as a location can advance development in the field significantly. We want to make this visible internationally.” Katharina Witte is familiar with the topic of quantum technology: As Project manager for Innovation Optics/Photonics at Berlin Partner für Wirtschaft und Technologie, the physicist has been supporting the topic and now also BERLIN QUANTUM for around a year and a half: The joint initiative of Berlin’s business, research institutions and universities, which was launched in September 2023, focuses heavily on the topic of technology transfer.

“Other cities have clear priorities in the area of quantum technology. Munich and Stuttgart, for example, have focused on computing. Berlin is far more diverse. In addition to the already mentioned excellent research in all relevant areas, computing, sensor technology, communication and imaging, there are many established, traditional SMEs in Berlin that are active in areas such as photonics, microelectronics and software development and have a solid foundation of expertise. At the same time, spin-offs from universities and new settlements are providing fresh impetus to the Berlin ecosystem. We can therefore position ourselves extremely broadly when it comes to quantum technology – Berlin can benefit greatly from this.”

Katharina Witte, Project manager for Innovation Optics/Photonics at Berlin Partner für Wirtschaft und Technologie. (Foto: © Berlin Partner)

Clear positioning in international comparison

The basic concept of BERLIN QUANTUM was developed by researchers from the Excellence Network of the Berlin University Alliance (BUA) with the Freie Universität Berlin (FU Berlin), Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin and Technische Universität Berlin (TU Berlin), together with the Fraunhofer Institute for Open Communication Systems (FOKUS) and the Fraunhofer Institute for Telecommunications (HHI). The initial aim was to position Berlin well in national and international comparison. The Berlin Senate rated the jointly developed concept as worthy of funding. “That was, so to speak, the starting signal for the establishment of a consortium consisting of the Industry association for optics, photonics and microelectronics in Berlin and Brandenburg ‘OpTecBB e.V.’, the transfer company of the Humboldt University ‘Humboldt-Innovation GmbH’ and Berlin Partner für Wirtschaft und Technologie,” said Witte. The three then developed an expansion concept with measures for “business-related activities” that can involve companies and enable technology transfer.

The Berlin Senate approved a total of 25 million euros in funding for BERLIN QUANTUM in 2023. 15 million euros of this go to basic research and the promotion of young academics. Humboldt-Innovation, OpTecBB and Berlin Partner will use the remaining ten million euros to coordinate further activities of the initiative, such as funding calls for R&D projects, talent and start-up funding or network formation.

15 million euros to support young researchers

“The money for basic research goes primarily to support young scientists,” explains Witte and adds. “Two new professorships will be created and numerous new positions for doctoral students and postdocs at Berlin universities who are conducting research in the field of quantum technology.” This will complement the existing activities of the Berlin School of Optical Sciences and Quantum Technologies (BOS.QT). As the first major funding measure, BERLIN QUANTUM also launched the IBB Berlin ProFIT-Call (link in German only) for projects with a focus on “application-oriented quantum technologies” in September 2023, at the same time as its official kick-off. However, the nucleus of the quantum community is the new innovation hub and coworking space Leap: A physical place of networking for quantum technologies in the Berlin-Adlershof Innovation Centre. Witte: “The doors of Leap are open for everyone. In the event and networking space, all stakeholders in Berlin’s quantum technology landscape should be able to meet and exchange ideas. We are also explicitly addressing those interested in other technology areas, because we are looking for solidarity with other technology sectors.” At the same time, the Leap offers office space, especially to young companies, right in the heart of the Adlershof science location.


Network and overall brand for stakeholders in the industry

As a broad hotspot for quantum technologies, Berlin should become internationally visible primarily through trade fairs and delegation trips. Katharina Witte: “We want explicitly to address exhibitions, trade fairs, conferences and meetings that are focussed on quantum technology. We invite stakeholders from the local community to represent the Berlin-Brandenburg location together with us.” A visit to the World of QUANTUM in Munich in June 2025 is planned. Delegation trips to Poland and the Netherlands are planned for this year. A first delegation trip has already taken place: At the end of September 2023 we went to Washington D.C. as part of a visit to the Quantum World Congress.

The BERLIN QUANTUM initiative is also intended to provide further impetus for start-ups and new companies, for example through a graduate program set up by OpTecBB: “From PhD to CEO” is aimed specifically at university graduates from Master's level onwards who are interested in founding a company. Berlin Partner also plans to set up an incubator for early-stage start-ups in the area of application-oriented quantum technologies. Katharina Witte: “At the end of the year, we would like to organise a pilot round in which suitable candidates work intensively with mentors for a week on questions relating to setting up a business. The concept will be further expanded in the coming years.”

And what is the vision of BERLIN QUANTUM? “The funding for the initiative runs until the end of 2026,” says Witte. “This will enable us to lay the foundations for establishing BERLIN QUANTUM as an umbrella for all stakeholders actively involved in quantum technology in Berlin. We also want to position the initiative as an institution and network visibly to the outside world.” (vdo)

Our tip: On the second Tuesday of every month, BERLIN QUANTUM hosts at Leap a “BAR BQ”: Everyone who is interested in the topic of quantum technologies is invited to the open networking event.


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