As quantum computing is moving from labs to business operations, Finland can host global excellence – Speech at the SemiQon launch event

(Speech given at SemiQon launch event in Otaniemi 8.5.2023)

Dear audience, 

I am honored and excited to be here at the SemiQon Launch Event, celebrating the start of a VTT spinoff that aims to improve the scalability, economics, and energy efficiency of quantum computing.

Quantum computing is now moving from research laboratories to business operations and is becoming one of the breakthrough technologies of this century. Its importance and strategic nature cannot be underestimated. As with every industrial revolution so far, the true enormous shift only comes with scalability – the ability to mass-manufacture. When technology becomes cheap and efficient enough to produce in mass quantities, it starts a self-feeding cycle in which more people, companies, and use cases are associated with the technology, speeding up the innovation cycle even further.

The true enormous technological shift only comes with scalability – the ability to mass-manufacture.

The scaling, development, and diffusion of technology are more a function of use than time. We’ve seen this with silicon chips, solar panels, and electric cars, to name a few, and we’re likely to see the same dynamic with quantum computing too.

Thus, SemiQon is in a super interesting and important spot right now: at the frontier where dozens of qubits will eventually be replaced by thousands, then millions of qubits.

But nothing is certain – at least if we stick to some kind of Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics.

Technological development is not a deterministic march, but a series of trial and error, countless hours of work by smart minds and skilled hands. SemiQon might become a world-changing company, or it might not. As a policymaker, I want to make sure Finland is the place where the former is as likely as possible, where SemiQon and companies like it are frequently spun off, where they are able to attract global talent, gather financing, grow their business, and skyrocket to global success.

This requires that we keep our commitment to investing 4 percent of our GDP in R&D. We must also ensure that foreign talent can come and stay in Finland smoothly and that we are an open-minded, curious, and internationally oriented society. Investing in education at all levels is essential. Money itself doesn’t create new ideas and innovations. People do, and we must ensure that there is skilled labor here to do the R&D work. Skilled and smart minds also attract new skills and more smart minds. 

Here in Otaniemi, the campus of my alma mater, we can see that every day. Finland must be a place where globally competitive innovation ecosystems emerge and flourish.

We should also seize all opportunities provided to us by the most important international organizations of which we are members. The European Union is a significant funder of research and development and is also looking towards a more proactive industrial policy. It is important that Finland promotes competitive markets and quality-based research funding in the future as well, even as the time undeniably calls for a more geopolitical approach towards strategic industries and capabilities.

Finland must be a place where globally competitive innovation ecosystems emerge and flourish.

Finland’s membership in NATO clarifies our position in a turbulent world and creates new opportunities in tech industries. Thanks to this process, Finland also enjoys exceptional international attention right now. We should utilize this momentum to the maximum.

Luckily, I’m not alone with these thoughts. The commitment to increased R&D investment has strong support throughout the political spectrum. The importance of high-tech industries to our economy and the significance of breakthrough technologies to our future are all the time better understood. You can help this development by taking an active role in the public debate.

Dear audience,

Science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke once said, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” With all its weirdness and enormous potential, quantum computing is starting to look like magic to many of us. But this magic is made with hard work. It is the hard work – already done and the work ahead – that we are celebrating today. The future doesn’t just happen, it is built.

I wish the best of luck to SemiQon in its venture!

2_Atte Harjanne