Austria's most highly endowed research prizes have been awarded: On the recommendation of an international jury of experts, the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) has selected quantum physicist Hans J. Briegel (University of Innsbruck) to receive the FWF Wittgenstein Award and eight additional researchers for the FWF START Award. Minister of Education, Science and Research Martin Polaschek and FWF President Christof Gattringer presented the €1.5 million FWF Wittgenstein Award to Hans J. Briegel today. Briegel will use the funds to further advance his world-class research. With this year’s Wittgenstein and START Awards, the FWF is launching research projects with a total funding volume of around €11 million.

“I am extremely happy to receive this award,” said Hans J. Briegel in an initial reaction. “The FWF Wittgenstein Award is a great recognition of my work and gives me the opportunity to continue my research on very fundamental questions about what science can look like with the advent of artificial intelligence. My team and I are focusing on quantum physics to investigate these questions,” Briegel continued.

“I would like to extend my warmest congratulations to FWF Wittgenstein Award winner Hans J. Briegel as well as to the eight researchers awarded the FWF START Awards," said Minister of Education, Science and Research Martin Polaschek, who emphasizes the importance of these funding awards for basic research in Austria. “With these highly endowed grants, excellent researchers are given the opportunity to further advance their outstanding projects and work here in Austria. This contributes not only to the generation of knowledge, but also to Austria’s attractiveness as a location for research, innovation, and business,” the minister continued.

With Hans J. Briegel, the international jury is honoring a pioneer in basic research who has developed groundbreaking concepts in quantum information. His theories pave the way for new technologies, such as the quantum internet or quantum-based artificial intelligence. “This award is a further highlight in an impressive research career, which also promises to generate exciting new findings in the future,” says FWF President Christof Gattringer about this year’s award winner. “In addition, I would also like to extend my warmest congratulations to all of the FWF START Award winners, who will be setting out to answer new research questions in very different fields in the next few years.”

“Hans J. Briegel has played a very decisive role in shaping quantum physics in Innsbruck over the past decades, making pioneering contributions to the development of new quantum technologies,” says Veronika Sexl, Rector of the University of Innsbruck. “Hans J. Briegel is already the fourth of Innsbruck’s physicists to win the FWF Wittgenstein Award. This makes us very proud and emphasizes the importance of this research focus in Austria’s research community.”  

FWF Wittgenstein Award winner Hans J. Briegel: Discovering groundbreaking concepts for quantum technologies

Hans J. Briegel is a professor and head of the research group Quantum Information and Computation at the Department for Theoretical Physics at the University of Innsbruck. He studied physics and philosophy in Munich and Edinburgh. Other stages in his career include a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard University, a visiting professorship at the University of Konstanz, and many years leading a research group as Scientific Director at the Institute of Quantum Optics and Quantum Information (IQOQI) of the Austrian Academy of Sciences (OeAW) in Innsbruck. In 2022 Hans J. Briegel was awarded an ERC Advanced Grant.

His research group explores fundamental concepts of quantum mechanics and statistical physics and their applications in information processing. He has done groundbreaking work in quantum computing and quantum communications. Hans J. Briegel is one of the inventors of the one-way quantum computer, which several companies worldwide are now working on realizing. With the idea for quantum repeaters, he and his colleagues at the University of Innsbruck have laid the foundation for the quantum internet of the future. His current research interests focus on the problem of learning and artificial intelligence in quantum physics and on quantum machine learning.

Quantum information systems and artificial intelligence are essential elements in current technological development. In the future, they will also have a fundamental influence on scientific practise by allowing the acceleration and extensive automation of knowledge generation. This potential transformation of basic research poses entirely new challenges for science. For Hans J. Briegel, understanding and transparency play a key role in science, which is why the development of explainable AI in basic research is very important for the future. He believes using quantum physics to study these questions to be a promising approach, because natural sciences have a solid understanding and criteria of what constitutes a good explanation.  

With his team, Hans J. Briegel not only investigates fundamental aspects and potentials of quantum information systems and autonomously acting artificial intelligence, but also works on philosophical questions concerning AI and the principal capacity of physical systems to act.

Jury statement: Groundbreaking contributions to quantum computing

“Hans J. Briegel is one of the pioneers in the field of quantum computing and technology. His work allows calculations that conventional computers cannot perform. His findings play a key role in three main areas of quantum computing: The discovery of measurement-based quantum computing is the cornerstone of optically-based quantum information processing; the invention of quantum repeaters enables the quantum internet; and his development of quantum amplification learning is shaping the rapidly growing field of artificial quantum intelligence. By awarding the FWF Wittgenstein Award to Hans J. Briegel, Austria is honoring one of its most creative researchers in a field in which Austria plays a leading role,” said the START/Wittgenstein jury.

The START/Wittgenstein jury consists of 11 top researchers, including two Nobel Prize laureates, Bruce Beutler and Stefan Hell. Chair of the jury is Janet Wolff, University of Manchester. Click here for a list of the members of the START/Wittgenstein Jury.

FWF Wittgenstein Award: Austria’s most highly endowed science prize

The FWF Wittgenstein Award is granted to outstanding researchers from all disciplines. The award, endowed with €1.5 million, supports the researchers’ work and guarantees them independence and flexibility in implementing their projects, giving them the opportunity to advance their research activities at the highest international level.

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