Swissnex Explores The Future of Quantum in Toronto

A Swiss-Canadian discussion at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy explored the economic promise of quantum science and innovation and potential for bilateral cooperation.

April 19, 2023 | Boston & New York

As part of a high-level Swiss scientific and business delegation to Canada, Swissnex organized a panel discussion on quantum technologies at the University of Toronto on April 12, 2023. Titled the “The Next Big Thing in Quantum,” it focused on the economic promise of new quantum technologies and explored opportunities for Switzerland and Canada – two leading countries in the quantum field – to collaborate more closely.

The discussion featured EPFL Professor Anna Fontcuberta i Morral, who serves as president of the Specialized Committee for International Cooperation at the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF). She was joined by Professor Francesco Bova, Academic Lead at the Creative Destruction Lab, a non-profit that has mentored over 120 seed-stage quantum startups, and by Daniel Bacinello, Director of Research at the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR). The panel was moderated by Brendan Karch of Swissnex in Boston and hosted at the Munk School for Global Affairs and Public Policy.

The audience included the rectors of several Swiss universities and universities of applied sciences, along with Swiss economic and innovation leaders as well as Toronto-based academic and industry leaders who are active or potential partners for Switzerland.

The discussion highlighted the strengths of each country’s quantum ecosystem. Canada has excelled in creating quantum computing “unicorn” startups such as D-Wave and Xanadu. Switzerland, meanwhile, thrives on broad-based research and talent development excellence at its universities, which has given rise to a robust ecosystem with particular strengths in quantum sensing, networking, and enabling technologies like photonics.

While already strong collaborators at the scientific level, the two countries’ partnership in quantum may have further potential based on their complementary strengths, according to the panel. To enhance this potential, SNSF and CIFAR signed a letter of interest for further collaboration, including on quantum technologies, on the same day as the panel.

Urs Obrist, Senior Science and Technology Counsellor at the Embassy of Switzerland in Ottawa, Canada, who is part of the Swissnex network, organized the panel as part of the Swiss delegation to Toronto and Montreal. While in Montreal, Swiss Federal Councilor Guy Parmelin and Canada’s Innovation Minister François-Philippe Champagne signed a joint statement committing to increasing science, technology, and innovation research partnerships between the two countries.

“The panel was a great opportunity to introduce this cutting-edge technology to a wider audience of economic and higher education leaders from both Switzerland and Canada and to promote further bilateral cooperation in quantum science and innovation,” said Karch. “We hope to follow up with more activities that draw together several of the countries Switzerland is partnering with on quantum, including the US, Canada, and the UK, among others.”