The Young Researcher Entrepreneur prize is awarded each year to a person or team who has developed a new research-based business. This year’s winners, Jan Goetz and Kuan Yen Tan, have co-founded IQM Quantum Computers that builds quantum computers based on superconducting technology and has already achieved breakthroughs in computational speed and accuracy.
The potential of quantum computers is based on their computing power: they can solve certain complex tasks in a matter of minutes that would take thousands or even millions of years to compute on a regular computer.
“We are building world-leading quantum computers for the well-being of humankind, now and for the future,” Jan Goetz says.
At the moment, IQM provides quantum computers to universities and research centers for scientific and educational purposes. The company has raised 71 million euros in funding, and in November 2020 it landed a contract with VTT to build Finland’s first quantum computer.
The next step for the company is to build a machine that is optimized to solve an application-specific problem using IQM’s co-design of software and hardware. These quantum computers are expected to have revolutionary effects, for example, in drug development, materials science, chemistry and financial modeling.
“Quantum technology could be used in many industries and technical innovations. For example, it could improve the optimization of cities’ traffic flow,” Goetz says.
The founders of IQM first got to know each other through their research work at Aalto University and VTT. Jan Goetz received his PhD in superconducting circuits at the Technical University of Munich, Germany, and in 2017 he moved to Finland with the help of a Marie-Curie Fellowship to continue research at Aalto University. Kuan Yen Tan has researched quantum technology at the University of New South Wales in Australia and Aalto University, and has a PhD in quantum computing. In addition, he has also worked at Microsoft.
“Along the way, I’ve picked up a lot of know-how about how to scale up the technology, and to build something commercial from it,” Kuan Yen Tan says.
In its decision the jury emphasised, above all, the high potential impact that IQM has as a company:
“The quantum computer will have a revolutionary impact on both research and society at large. IQM is credibly able to compete in the global competition in the industry. The funding raised by the company shows that the team’s ability to make a breakthrough in quantum computer development is trusted. It is a positive and encouraging signal that top experts like Goetz and Tan see Finland as a good environment for starting a high-tech company like IQM,” the jury states.
The Young Researcher Entrepreneur award is organised by the KAUTE Foundation’s Academic Entrepreneurship Fund. This year the jury included Mikael Pentikäinen, CEO of Suomen Yrittäjät (Association of Finnish Entrepreneurs), Timo Saranpää, Chairman of Academic Entrepreneurs, Virpi Muhonen, CEO of Askel Healthcare and winner of the award in 2017 and Tuomas Olkku, Executive Director of KAUTE Foundation.