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Austrian Startups in Quantum Computing

New article in the Austrian Press "derStandard" and a case study by the Austrian Ministry for traffic, innovation and technology

We are very excited to be part of the Study conducted by the Austrian Ministry for Traffic, Innovation and Technology. The study focusses on the analyses of opportunities for improving technology transfer from  Austrian research in quantum technology to industry.

“Strategische Analyse der Möglichkeiten zur stärkeren Industrialisierung der Ergebnisse der österreichischen Quantenforschung”

As the study was conducted in german we took the liberty and translated the relevant parts here.

Find the article from here.

Find the link for the original study conducted by the Austrian ministry for traffic, innovation and technology here.

The startup Crystalline Mirror Solutions (CMS) can be seen as an example of a successful start-up in Austrian quantum research. The company originated from the research group of Prof. Aspelmeyer at the University of Vienna. When founding a product (special coated mirror) was already used which helped CMS enter the market immediately. As a result, CMS also found it easier to attract investment compared to companies that have a good idea but still have no product-ready prototype.

Another spin-off from Vienna, Quantum Technology Laboratories GmbH was founded in 2017 by Dr. Ing. Ursin. He currently sees himself mainly in an advisory role and industrial prototyping for quantum communication technologies.

The most noteworthy new spin-off development is certainly the recent creation of Alpine Quantum Technologies GmbH (AQT), founded by  Prof. Blatt, Prof. Zoller and Dr. Ing. Monz, based in Innsbruck, which aims to bring ion-based quantum computers to market. The goal is to develop an ion quantum computer on a modular basis within 3 years. The modular approach should create as much freedom as possible and ensure independence in the supply chain. Although the number of qubits is not as high as in superconductive element implementations, the AQT has a technological advantage: the qubits can have a higher quality, a greater number of them can interact, and an interface to optical quantum networks can be realized more easily. The AQT is already realizing opportunities that the competition seems to be taking for years to come. The exact exploitation strategy includes both a service offer (sell computing time) to the distribution of the individual quantum modules or  a complete quantum computer.

Among the surveyed researchers, the incentive to start a business primarily correlates with the theoretical or experimental nature of the respective research activity. While spin-offs are not at all considered in the theory-oriented groups of Prof. Rabl and Prof. Brukner, for example, the experimental groups around Prof. Arndt (smart laser safety goggles), Prof. Walther (One-time Programs), Dr. Trupke (molecular detection by means of quantum sensors) certainly consider the possibility to go in the direction of company formation, depending on successful proof-of-concept experiments.

The founding of spin-off companies has also entered the consciousness of universities. For this purpose, support and mentoring for the company founders is offered as part of their knowledge transfer centers. At IST Austria, e.g. a technology park was set up, where in-house and external spin-offs can move to laboratories and offices. The IST also offers lectures on the establishment of startups.

The spin-off CMS proved that it is also possible to attract investors as an Austrian company in Austria. Among the sponsors are the AWS (Seed Financing), tecnet, I.E.C.T. – Institute for Entrepreneurship Cambridge Tyrol and a Swiss investor group. An existing product and patents were helpful. AQT, in the current filing phase of patents and securing existing IPRs, finds it more difficult to leverage investment and is still looking for suitable partners. There is currently AWS PreSeed funding and support from STARTUP.TIROL. Furthermore, the Industrial Association Tyrol could be won as a shareholder.

As praiseworthy was the support and promotion (seed programs) of the AWS mentioned above, both for CMS and for AQT. The relative unbureaucratic application, as well as the proactive appearance are seen very positive. In part, the overly rigid structures at the universities, which were responsible for the emerging spin-offs, were criticized about making it difficult to use the infrastructure at the universities in the longer term. According to the researchers involved also bureaucratic hurdles are to be reduced when it comes to the establishment of start-ups.