Fujitsu’s aim for the 10-year endowment is to accelerate the transition to a more efficient world through advancing the science of optimisation. TU Hamburg was a clear choice thanks to its interdisciplinary collaboration between the sciences, such as applied mathematics, applied computer science and engineering.
Fujitsu anticipates that research will accelerate the deployment of techniques that reduce resource depletion, improve businesses' ability to operate efficiently and make commercial and government service delivery more responsive to the public’s needs.
The computations needed to find solutions to industrial combinational optimisation challenges are often so demanding that new forms of computer hardware – notably quantum computing – have been seen as necessary. Its Digital Annealer drives Fujitsu’s interest in this field. Although this uses semiconductor-based hardware, it implements a special architecture and quantum-inspired algorithms to solve combinatorial optimisation tasks across various real-world challenges – working with data sets that were previously too complex or too large to process within commercially reasonable timescales.
For example, in manufacturing, Fujitsu enabled a major global automotive OEM to optimise the path for its industrial robots, finding the best option from a choice of more than 10100 possible combinations. This number far exceeds the number of atoms assumed to exist in the universe1. The Digital Annealer can perform the calculations for this optimisation in near real-time, rather than days or weeks, allowing for the ‘always optimal’ rapid re-configuration of assets and the new agility to flex systems and processes according to circumstances.Applications cross all sectors – commercial and public
The new professorship2 in Hamburg, Germany, will spur new application-oriented combinatorial optimisation research – a topic that is becoming increasingly relevant across most sectors of the economy and public administration. Besides optimising car manufacturing, the Digital Annealer's current applications include faster and more accurate drug discovery, maximising returns and minimising risk on financial portfolios, and minimising capital investment while optimising customer service for utility companies. The Digital Annealer also helps reduce carbon emissions and air pollution from traffic for urban authorities, logistics companies and mobility providers, and optimising communication networks.
Fujitsu’s broader interest in endowing the TU Hamburg is to open a new talent development channel for its Digital Annealer services. As well as a new professorial chair, the endowment will also fund at least five other full-time research and support positions at TU Hamburg and expose the concepts and technologies to an expanding ecosystem of partners. Activities listed in the endowment agreement include joint research and development projects, a focus on basic scientific research, and the development of methods, protocols, processes and prototypes in the field of combinatorial optimisation systems. Fujitsu has also agreed to offer industry-based internships and bachelor- or masters theses and doctoral dissertations under supervision from the TU Hamburg.
Dr. Joseph Reger, Fujitsu Fellow and CTO at Fujitsu Central and Eastern Europe, says: “Although it is not yet widely known outside of specialist circles, combinatorial optimisation is among the mathematical techniques that will have the most significant impact on the way we live and work in the future. It has the potential to organise any process or system in a way that cuts out the log jams, removes the friction and dead wood, makes things simply better.
“Fujitsu believes that with the approaching advent of quantum computing, the time is right to leverage combinatorial optimisation to expand the limits of complexity that IT can handle,” continues Reger. “There is no need to wait for quantum computers to do that. The hardware and software already exist to process massive combinatorial optimisation challenges and we are doing that with our customers today. By endowing this new professorship at the Hamburg University of Technology, Fujitsu is accelerating the adoption of combinatorial optimisation as a tool for business and society. We anticipate that the result will be a faster transition to a more efficient world, where we unlock the breakthroughs that will allow it to run better, using fewer resources.”
Professor Andreas Timm-Giel, Executive President of the Technical University of Hamburg, said: “In close collaboration between research and industry, the newly-endowed professorship will open up the research field of hardware-related combinatorial optimisation. We envisage that the Technical University of Hamburg’s interdisciplinary research will develop into an application centre for new computer architectures and quantum computing. It will also provide excellent training for the next generation of engineers. The collaboration between TU Hamburg, Fujitsu, and Dataport strengthens the research and development potential at our Hamburg location and provides a considerable innovation boost for digitalisation. From basic research to application, we are creating real added value for society.”
Fujitsu is the leading Japanese information and communication technology (ICT) company, offering a full range of technology products, solutions, and services. Approximately 130,000 Fujitsu people support customers in more than 100 countries. We use our experience and the power of ICT to shape the future of society with our customers. Fujitsu Limited (TSE: 6702) reported consolidated revenues of 3.9 trillion yen (US$35 billion) for the fiscal year ended March 31, 2020. For more information, please see www.fujitsu.com.
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Date: 13 October, 2020