February, 10 2021 ›Quantum Optics Jena‹: Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft quantum technology startup successfully completes seed funding to develop high-security communication systems

Becom­ing a pio­neer com­pany for high-secu­rity quan­tum com­mu­ni­ca­tion — noth­ing less is the goal of »Quan­tum Optics Jena GmbH«. The lat­est spin-off at the Fraun­hofer Insti­tute for Applied Optics and Pre­ci­sion Engi­neer­ing IOF devel­ops quan­tum-based solu­tions for state-of-the-art com­mu­ni­ca­tion sys­tems. Now the found­ing team has gath­ered the nec­es­sary investors behind them and is work­ing on build­ing up the start-up in the heart of Germany.

Dig­i­tal infor­ma­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tion are inte­gral parts of every­day life and ele­men­tary for soci­ety and the econ­omy. Com­put­ers, opti­cal fiber net­works and satel­lite links now con­nect entire con­ti­nents and form the basis of the global com­mu­ni­ca­tions infra­struc­ture. Today, the secu­rity and sov­er­eignty of data is secured by com­plex math­e­mat­i­cal algo­rithms and cryp­tog­ra­phy solu­tions. With the highly dynamic devel­op­ment of quan­tum com­put­ing, com­pletely new types of com­put­ing power are becom­ing pos­si­ble, pos­ing a threat to clas­si­cal encryp­tion methods.

Quan­tum physics also pro­vides the answer to this chal­lenge: Based on phys­i­cal laws, quan­tum optics enables com­pletely new con­cepts for gen­er­at­ing encryp­tion meth­ods and the phys­i­cally secure trans­mis­sion of infor­ma­tion. Here, the secure key for the encryp­tion and exchange of infor­ma­tion is per­formed by quan­tum phys­i­cal meth­ods. This quan­tum key dis­tri­b­u­tion (QKD) enables the phys­i­cally mea­sur­able secure exchange of information.

Know-how from the Fraunhofer IOF

The start-up »Quan­tum Optics Jena« (QOJ) is a spin-off of the Fraun­hofer Insti­tute for Applied Optics and Pre­ci­sion Engi­neer­ing IOF, which has already been suc­cess­fully active in the field of quan­tum com­mu­ni­ca­tion and quan­tum imag­ing for sev­eral years. »In recent years, we have been able to demon­strate tech­no­log­i­cal readi­ness for entan­gled pho­ton sources at the Fraun­hofer IOF, and as Quan­tum Optics Jena we are now com­bin­ing the nat­ural laws of quan­tum mechan­ics with exper­tise in the devel­op­ment and pro­duc­tion of opti­cal sys­tems to offer socially exploitable solu­tions,« explains Dr. Oliver de Vries, CTO of the Thuringian start-up. »Our goal is to estab­lish a pio­neer­ing com­pany for tap-proof com­mu­ni­ca­tion in infor­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy in the heart of Ger­many« adds CEO Dr. Kevin
Füch­sel.  Prof. Andreas Tün­ner­mann, Direc­tor of the Fraun­hofer IOF, also wel­comes the entre­pre­neur­ial step of the for­mer employ­ees: »Quan­tum tech­nol­ogy is one of the most ground­break­ing research and devel­op­ment fields of our time. I am pleased to see how young founders trans­fer their knowl­edge gained at Fraun­hofer IOF into their own com­pa­nies and thus into new innovations.«

Rapid development of the start-up with the investors

The investors of »Quan­tum Optics Jena« are con­vinced of the idea: The tri­umvi­rate of ELAS Tech­nolo­gies GmbH, Fraun­hofer Tech­nolo­gie-Trans­fer Fonds GmbH and beteili­gungs­man­ge­ment Thürin­gen (bm|t) believes in the future of quan­tum tech­nolo­gies and invests a seven-digit amount in »Quan­tum Optics Jena GmbH«. »We are pleased to have put together an out­stand­ing team of investors for Quan­tum Optics Jena in recent weeks. Now the com­pany has the nec­es­sary clout to build up and quickly imple­ment their ideas«, com­ments Matthias Keckl from Fraun­hofer Tech­nolo­gie-Trans­fer Fonds.

First products in preparation

In the com­ing weeks, the team will work inten­sively on the real­iza­tion of its first own prod­uct: a com­pact and high-per­for­mance entan­gled pho­ton source for quan­tum key dis­tri­b­u­tion or quan­tum opti­cal exper­i­ments. Dr. Oliver de Vries elab­o­rates: »In the next step we will be able to pro­vide our cus­tomers with com­plete QKD sys­tems to counter cyber­at­tacks and the threat of quan­tum com­put­ing«. But that’s not all: The QOJ team con­tin­ues to work closely with Fraun­hofer IOF and is
cur­rently tin­ker­ing with a new prod­uct for quan­tum imag­ing, which could soon find appli­ca­tion in med­ical tech­nol­ogy or mate­ri­als analysis.

Fraunhofer IOF

The Fraun­hofer Insti­tute for Applied Optics and Pre­ci­sion Engi­neer­ing IOF, based in Jena, Ger­many, con­ducts research into the fur­ther devel­op­ment of light as a means of solv­ing a wide vari­ety of prob­lems and appli­ca­tion sce­nar­ios. The work of the research insti­tute, founded in 1992, there­fore focuses on appli­ca­tion-ori­ented research into light gen­er­a­tion, light guid­ance and light mea­sure­ment. Together with researchers from basic research and indus­try, inno­v­a­tive solu­tions are cre­ated that rep­re­sent a tech­no­log­i­cal advan­tage in sci­ence and indus­try and open up new fields of appli­ca­tion for photonics.

Beteiligungsmangement Thüringen (bm|t)

Erfurt-based, bm|t beteili­gungs­man­age­ment Thürin­gen (bm|t) – a sub­sidiary of the Thürin­gen Devel­op­ment Bank, is the first address for Ven­ture Cap­i­tal and Pri­vate Equity invest­ments in Thürin­gen, Ger­many. bm|t cur­rently man­ages ten invest­ment funds with a total vol­ume of 440M EUR. bm|t invests in inno­v­a­tive com­pa­nies with strong growth poten­tial across all sec­tors and all phases of the cor­po­rate lifecycle.

Fraunhofer Technologie-Transfer Fonds (FTTF) GmbH

The Fraun­hofer Tech­nol­ogy Trans­fer Fund (FTTF) is a ven­ture cap­i­tal fund with a vol­ume of 60 mil­lion euros that pro­vides start-ups with Fraun­hofer tech­nolo­gies with cap­i­tal of 250,000 to 5 mil­lion euros in the chal­leng­ing early phases. Sup­ported by the Euro­pean Invest­ment Fund (EIF) and the Fraun­hofer- Gesellschaft, the FTTF stands by found­ing teams as an entre­pre­neur­ial partner.

ELAS Technologies GmbH

ELAS Tech­nol­ogy Invest­ment GmbH (ELAS) is a Ger­man-based but glob­ally ori­ented finan­cial investor, with Head­quar­ters in Achim in the north of Ger­many. ELAS has been cre­ated to pro­vide finan­cial agility and infra­struc­ture sup­port for promis­ing enti­ties and orga­ni­za­tions in the glob­ally favor­able pho­tonic and high-tech indus­tries. Ger­man industry’s own record and com­pe­tences in these tech­nol­ogy areas is of course sec­ond to none.