Quantum technology

Danish companies are staying quantum ready

Although it may take decades before the quantum computer becomes widespread, it is important for many companies and organizations to stay on top of things already now. The consequences of lagging behind can be catastrophic.

Analyzing which sources the energy in the grid should come from is complex - especially as a larger part comes from wind and sun which has a more unpredictable output. To Energinet, a quantum computer would be able to handle complicated calculations that a classic computer can't do. Photo: Energinet/Maria Tuxen Hedegaard

The potential also holds a threat

The quantum computer not only offers potential, but also entails cyber security challenges, because the quantum computer’s unique computing power will be able to break our existing encryption and checkmate our IT security. Fortunately, quantum-proof encryption is already being developed, and here it’s important for companies to assess which data are particularly sensitive and necessary to protect.

“As an organization, you primarily need to be aware of the threat that quantum computers may pose to your current infrastructure,” says Tobias Gehring, Associate Professor at DTU Physics and co-developer of quantum-proof encryption.

He explains that it is expected to take 10-15 years to change the current encryption infrastructure, and therefore you should not wait too long to get ready.

“As soon as the quantum computer is here, it will be too late to get started, because you risk that hackers will break into your systems. So it’s important to be well prepared to avoid sudden panic reactions,” says Tobias Gehring.

There is a calculation for when you need to start protecting your data. You are at risk if the number of years your data must be protected, combined with the time it takes to implement quantum-proof encryption in your IT systems, is longer than the time it takes before the quantum computer can break currently available encryption. The big question is, of course, when the quantum computer can do this. Every year, the Canadian Global Risk Institute asks 40 leading quantum experts from all over the world about this, and here the majority believe that it will in all likelihood not occur until in 15-20 years.

"So if your data are valuable for a longer period of time, you will have a big problem,” says Tobias Gehring.

Both further away and closer than expected

They have also grappled with this calculation in Energinet and have come to the conclusion that they must start getting quantum ready immediately. Energinet owns and operates the Danish energy infrastructure and has a small team of three people working with quantum technology.

“It only takes one functional quantum computer to constitute a threat to our systems and the entire critical infrastructure, and we actually don’t know what different military laboratories are working with and how far they have come,” says Alexander Frederiksen, Digital Business Developer at Energinet.

Therefore, Energinet is working to expand its competences in quantum technology in its organization, and, among other collaborations, Energinet participates in DTU’s CryptQ project, where they will test quantum distribution keys such as those Tobias Gehring is developing in their transformer stations.

“It’s an attempt to minimize risk. Our biggest fear is that if someone can break our encryption and listen in on our fibre-based communication, they can collect information over a long period of time,” explains Alexander Frederiksen.

He elaborates that the technology is both further away and closer than they had expected.

“At present, you can already have a cloud-based solution from IBM, where you can use a quantum computer to make some calculations. This would have sounded like science fiction a few years ago,” says Alexander Frederiksen.

Conversely, he had hoped that it could be used to make more complicated calculations than is the case.



Quantum technology is an area of rapid growth. Researchers at DTU are focusing on three areas of technology: Quantum communication and data security; ultra sensitive quantum sensors; and the development of quantum computers. This is done through both basic research and development of technologies that can be used by businesses and government alike, which are both showing strong interest in the field.

Read more in our special topic about quantum technology

Can simulate nature

While the security aspect is most acute for Energinet, the long-term perspectives are more exciting. As the energy grid receives more and more power from renewable—but also unpredictable—sources such as wind and solar power, it becomes more complex to calculate how the power is to be allocated in the most price-effective way.

That's why Energinet would like to simulate a complex electricity grid without outages and which entails the lowest possible costs. Today, it is also complicated to connect sustainable energy production to an old electricity grid with limited capacity, and Energinet lacks the computing power to calculate this.

“A quantum computer could possibly do this in minutes and thus optimize the management of our electricity grid. It can also simulate nature, and we can use this to make the right extensions to the electricity grid at the right times, which could benefit consumers,” says Alexander Frederiksen.

Knowledge through research collaborations

However, the greatest obstacle to becoming quantum ready is that it is difficult for companies to acquire relevant knowledge about this field.

“Our biggest challenge is that none of us in the team are quantum physicists,” explains Alexander Frederiksen.

“It’s such a highly technical field and still at a relatively early stage, so the existing communication material is more targeted at quantum researchers. The complexity increases really quickly after you have familiarized yourself with the fundamentals.”

This is recognized by Lasse Jiborn, who explains that very few of AMCS Group’s 1,200 employees have real knowledge of the potential of quantum computing for their industry.

“It still has a tinge of science fiction for some of my colleagues,” he says.

The Confederation of Danish Industry understands this concern, and Mikkel Haarder therefore advises companies to try to enter into industrial and research collaborations to acquire the latest knowledge and have opportunities to try things out in practice that you cannot do elsewhere. This can form the basis for unique quantum technological innovation, he believes:

“I’m sure this will be the next digital revolution. Denmark has a unique position of strength in this field, so we need to get on this train now and invest heavily in it.”