A Quantum Leap in Socially Responsible Technology: TUM Quantum Social Lab Receives BMBF Funding

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The rapid progress in the area of quantum technologies (QT) promises an economic boost, new breakthroughs in science, and novel solutions to global challenges. For years, TUM and the Munich region have been a hub for innovation and research in quantum technologies. This research is now complemented by a flagship project hosted by the newly established Quantum Social Lab at the TUM Think Tank. Supported by the BMBF with a grant totaling 1.9 million euros, the project "QuantWorld" focuses on the future of responsible technology development by making quantum technologies understandable to people where they will impact their daily work. The project integrates social aspects into the world of quantum technologies and takes new methodological approaches by involving artists in knowledge dissemination, making quantum technologies perceptible.

Quantum Technologies: The Path to the Future

Quantum technologies have the potential to reshape the world as we know it. Applications range from personalized drug development to contributions, climate protection through innovative battery technologies, to agricultural optimization based on more accurate predictions of natural events. While some applications such as quantum sensors in medical imaging are already on the market, others - like powerful quantum computers and developments in quantum communication - are still in their infancy.

To harness the full innovation potential of quantum technologies while also addressing their risks, including security threats or access equity, it is essential to engage with their societal dimensions and anticipate the potential impacts on people in their (professional) daily lives while technical development is still malleable. 

This is where the "QuantWorld" project comes in. Funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), it enables citizens regardless of their background to gain insight into the world of quantum technologies today and prepare for the future. The project is part of the Quantum Social Lab at the TUM Think Tank and was developed in collaboration with Fraunhofer AISEC and the TUM Clinic Rechts der Isar.

Urs Gasser, Principal Investigator of the project and Dean of the TUM School of Social Sciences and Technology, sums up the challenge: "Quantum technologies can help us build a better future in many ways. However, we must ensure that societal, political, and ethical implications are considered from the outset, and that technical innovations align with the well-being of people. We must avoid the mistake of treating ethical and social issues as an afterthought, as we did with AI, once applications emerge from the labs. QuantWorld is an attempt to be more proactive and participatory."

A Unique Educational Platform

The QuantWorld project provides a unique educational platform to introduce people to the world of quantum technologies, regardless of their prior knowledge. It combines innovative teaching methods, including artistic interventions, to make quantum technologies tangible and create a basis for a broad dialogue on the societal challenges associated with the development and establishment of second-generation quantum technologies.

Fabienne Marco, a doctoral candidate in computer science and political science who leads the Quantum Social Lab, provides a glimpse into the future: "Quantum technologies are abstract and built on complex mathematical and physical principles. Representing this abstraction requires new methods. Artistic interventions enable us to provide a new and disruptive way of accessing these technologies, initiating a transfer from the academic world to society, politics, and business. This concept will be further developed in the coming years to build an interdisciplinary network that focuses on the innovative communication of cutting-edge technologies and their applications, as well as the associated societal challenges."

Upon project completion, all suitable modules will be integrated into a QuantumBasics course, offering an overview of the fundamental workings of second-generation quantum technologies and potential future scenarios in the fields of medicine, banking, and mobility. Additionally, the artistic interventions will be made digitally accessible. In the long term, the learning experience from the QuantWorld platform will be transformed into virtual course formats to create an "immersive twin" of QuantWorld.

The project aligns with TUM's vision, committed to human-centered engineering. Thomas Hoffmann, President of TUM, emphasizes the importance of this approach: "This societal reference to complex technologies is critical for our innovation location in Munich. The QuantWorld project marks a crucial step toward a future where innovation and technology development are responsible, socially accepted, and sustainable."

For more information about "QuantWorld," please visit here.

About the Quantum Social Lab and the TUM Think Tank

The Quantum Social Lab focuses on researching and shaping the societal opportunities and risks surrounding quantum technologies, addressing responsible innovation and regulation, among other topics. It also offers various forms of knowledge dissemination regarding the theoretical and technological foundations of quantum technologies and is part of the TUM Think Tank.

The TUM Think Tank promotes societal and political change by bridging theory and practice. It creates interdisciplinary learning and experimentation spaces where stakeholders from science, society, and politics collaborate on specific questions and problems related to responsible technologies.