Taking science into a new era – How will quantum computing change the world?


Did you know that we at VTT are already building Finland’s second quantum computer? For Himadri Majumdar the quantum computer build projects have been the most challenging projects so far, but that’s also what makes it exciting. “I’ve said it before and will say it again: building quantum computers has been a once-in-a-lifetime project. You don’t get too many chances to be the first to build something,” says Majumdar.

Himadri Majumdar moved to Finland back in 2003 and has since then worked and led activities in universities and at VTT. What makes him a proud VTTer is the possibility to choose his own career path and evolve, meaning that even though he was once a scientist to the core, he has been able hop into a sales role and even lead a sales team. Since 2020 he has been working as the Lead of Quantum Programmes at VTT.

The first Finnish quantum computer build project runs in three phases. In the first phase we built an operational five-qubit computer, second a 20-qubit computer, and finally in the third phase, a 50-qubit computer will be done by 2024. Qubits mean how much computing power the processor has in a quantum computer.

“A huge milestone was when we had an operational 5-qubit processor and installed it into the computer. That was a goosebump moment and now the computer named HELMI (‘Pearl’) is up and running,” reminisces Majumdar.

What is the difference between a classical and a quantum computer?

Majumdar offers a great analogy for everyone who wants to understand the difference between a classical and a quantum computer: you are looking for a needle in haystack, which consists of, say, millions of layers of hay and you don’t know in which layer the needle is. What do you do? You start looking for it layer by layer, checking one layer at a time. This is how a classical computer does things. But with quantum computer, you can look at all the layers at the same time and find the needle way quicker.

This is disruptive, this is revolutionary, and this is going to change the world truly.
Himadri Majumdar, Quantum Programmes Lead at VTT

For example, many calculations that take weeks or even months to do with a classical computer, can potentially be done in seconds with a quantum computer. In practice, there is still a lot of progress to be made of course, but in short, quantum computers will dramatically change the timescale of computing and enable us to make more accurate decisions much faster.

A quantum computer

“This is disruptive, this is revolutionary, and this is going to change the world truly. And to be honest, also a very cool thing to impress the kids with,” Majumdar laughs.

Quantum computers will probably have a profound impact on human lives and how we do things in the future. However, technology is unpredictable, which makes the future hard to predict as well. We do advance with tech and hardware, but then the applications (how we use things) take on a life of their own. We can take a general guess on where we are headed, but we can never know for sure what we will be ending up with.

Anything is possible with the right mindset and team members

The quantum project will continue for a few more years, but once the building project is finished, the actual work starts. How to sustain everything that is created, how to create business out of it, create new knowhow and so on? In the end, this project is just the “showcase” of what we can do.

Majumdar looks into the future of tech with a positive mindset. There will naturally always be dark sides of technology, but that should not stop us from doing better things for a better future. As a scientist you need to be an optimist, otherwise we will just be pondering the negative and do nothing.

In the end, the best part of working is always the people, says Majumdar and continues:

“It is always a huge advantage to have team members who have the right mindset, who look forward and are positive about the power of science. It is hard and they know it. They have the 'sisu' attitude, where you never give up and just keep on pushing. That's the mindset that breaks barriers. The mindset that can change the future.”

Our vision beyond 2030

Quantum technology provides the tools to solve the most important challenges humanity is facing.