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Open-mindedness guides the new Centre for Quantum Engineering

The newly founded Centre for Quantum Engineering at Aalto University aims to bring science to everyday use as commercial products and applications.
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Professor Christian Flindt is in the middle of a very exciting process: he is the director of the brand-new Centre for Quantum Engineering. It is a thematic research centre that brings together research groups in order to strengthen their collaboration and to turn Aalto’s pioneering research into spin-offs – applications, products and entrepreneurship.

– We want to bring people together to work for a common goal. We have already had a kick-off event, a workshop and an open call for proposals, and new ideas for collaboration and products are definitely emerging. It is quite exciting and inspiring to be able to start something new like this, says Flindt.

Building on a strong base

The Centre for Quantum Engineering builds on Aalto’s existing strengths and expertise and will focus on areas, in which the local research tradition is already strong.

– Aalto has excellent fundamental research on quantum engineering as well as a good research infrastructure and facilities. It has been known for decades for example for its low-temperature quantum engineering, Flindt says.

– Aalto’s quantum research measures high on global scale – we can certainly compare ourselves to top European universities like ETH Zurich and Delft University of Technology. We are in an excellent position to attract students and researchers from all around the world. Aalto has an ambitious attitude that allows it to reach constantly further and higher.

Seizing opportunities with the right attitude

The Centre for Quantum Engineering will collaborate with other schools and universities and utilize a wide spectrum of expertise.

– Open-mindedness can help us seize opportunities. We can tighten our focus later on, if it feels necessary, but in the beginning it is good to remain receptive, Professor Flindt remarks.

The centre will run a variety of activities from visiting researchers, seminars and workshops to courses for Aalto students and summer schools for international students. In June, the centre chose the first six projects that it will be funding, starting this autumn. The project proposals went through a rigorous evaluation with external reviewers from around the world.

– The reviewers were very impressed with the high quality and variety of the proposals, as was I. The chosen projects explore new ideas and collaborations. Some of them concentrate on fundamental science, some on more applied science. This is an excellent start for the centre.

Polishing rough diamonds

Aalto already has a strong tradition of turning fundamental science into practical applications. Its quantum research has given birth to spin-off companies like BlueFors, specializing in refrigerators for low-temperature physics, and Asqella, developing thermal radiation imaging systems for detecting concealed objects from a distance.

– Quantum engineering is generally expected to produce new applications for instance for quantum computing and imaging. However, I think the greatest applications will be things that we can’t even imagine yet. We should keep an open mind in this sense as well, Flindt says.

The Centre for Quantum Engineering is formed around several research groups and run by Christian Flindt together with a coordinator and a board of scientific advisors. Part of the centre’s policy of open-mindedness is that any research group can request to participate in its work.

– I hope the centre will grow and expand in the future. We will remain open-minded while keeping our focus on quantum engineering. We want to find the rough diamonds, polish them, and send them out to the world.

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