Austria’s quan­tum sci­ence is taking off

Following in the footsteps of Schrödinger’s cat, Austria’s physicist
Following in the footsteps of Schrödinger’s cat, Austria’s physicists are investigating the most difficult puzzles of the quantum world.
Yesterday, the FWF Cluster of Excellence for quantum sciences has been officially launched in Innsbruck. As part of the Excellence Initiative, the Clusters of Excellence are Austrian beacons of basic research. Quantum Science Austria (quantA) brings together over 60 research groups in Innsbruck, Vienna, Linz and Klosterneuburg and is intended to strengthen Austria’s leading position in quantum science in the long term.

The Cluster of Excellence Quantum Science Austria (quantA) continues to advance basic research in the quantum sciences. Building on the achievements of the past decades, scientists at the Universities of Innsbruck and Vienna, Vienna University of Technology, JKU Linz, the Institute of Quantum Optics and Quantum Information of the Austrian Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Science and Technology Austria (ISTA) are researching the quantum foundations of space, time and gravity, new paradigms of quantum information and the physics of engineered quantum many-body systems. "Together, we want to push the boundaries of knowledge and thus be a driving force for future innovations," says director of research, Gregor Weihs. "The Cluster of Excellence offers us the opportunity to explore major questions in quantum research together and to exploit synergies between the working groups. Another important task will be training the future quantum generation. Austria is the best place for studies and research on the fundamentals of quantum physics."

,,The FWF Cluster of Excellence Quantum Science Austria underlines our commitment to excellence in research funding. Not least due to the cooperation of over 60 research groups, this research cluster will also become an international flagship for excellent Austrian research work in one of the key technologies of the future. However, knowledge must also be applied, which is why I welcome the anchoring of knowledge transfer as an important pillar of the Clusters of Excellence," emphasizes Martin Polaschek, Federal Minister of Education, Science and Research.

Twelve research projects already launched

In Innsbruck, Vienna, Linz and Klosterneuburg, innovative questions are asked that can only be solved by combining the unique know-how available in Austria. Using world-leading theoretical methods and precisely controlled model systems based on trapped ions, ultracold atoms, long-range interaction systems, superconducting quantum circuits and nanoscopic solid-state systems, the researchers aim to unravel the most difficult mysteries of the quantum world. This strengthens cooperation between the individual research groups throughout Austria in the long term. Twelve of these research projects were already launched in October. In total, around 35 quantum researchers, 12 postdocs and 25 PhD students are working on these first projects at all participating institutions. A second round is about to be announced.

Promoting young talent

In addition, a separate Austria-wide PhD program is planned with the aim of attracting the best minds and international talents to Austria and promoting them in a targeted manner. The Cluster’s Training Unit will take care of the quality training of young scientists. The funding of small-scale, short-term "Discovery Projects" will also attempt to achieve research goals using unorthodox means or to clarify a research question off the beaten track. ,,The aim of this program is to be open to new things and to promote innovative research approaches by young scientists who have not yet been able to use any other funding scheme," says Gregor Weihs. ,,Central aspects of quantA are also gender balance, the promotion of women and diversity as well as the involvement of the general public."

Together with research director Gregor Weihs from the University of Innsbruck, Markus Aspelmeyer (University of Vienna), Francesca Ferlaino (University of Innsbruck/ÖAW), Johannes Fink (ISTA), Tracy Northup (University of Innsbruck), Armando Rastelli (JKU Linz), Oriol Romero-Isart (University of Innsbruck/ÖAW) and Jörg Schmiedmayer (TU Vienna) form the board of the Quantum Science Austria Cluster of Excellence. A total of up to 70 million euros will be available to around 500 participating scientists over the next ten years.