Governments in China, Europe, and North America are devoting multi-billion-dollar programs to quantum technologies, and commercial investment is flowing as well. Leading venture and private equity funds as well as major corporations compete for rapid investments of considerable size.
The quest for quantum computing supremacy is a geopolitical priority for Europe, China, Canada, Australia and the United States. Boston Consulting Group’s 2018 report that estimates a quantum computing market of nearing $60 billion in 2035, which would grow further to $295 billion in 2050, which explains why nations, corporates and startups alike are all jockeying for first position. Advantage gained by acquiring the first computer that renders all other computers obsolete would be enormous and bestow economic, military and public health advantages to the winner.
China has unveiled the world’s first quantum communication landline connecting Beijing with Shanghai like no two other cities in history. The first quantum encrypted Skype call was also made, that same day, by the Chinese. It was only possible because of the world’s first quantum satellite, known as Micius. Beijing is striving to become a world leader in quantum technology through large-scale state-guided investments, which may total tens of billions of dollars in the years to come. Under its 13th five-year plan, introduced in 2016, China has launched a “megaproject” for quantum communications and computing, which aims to achieve major breakthroughs in these technologies by 2030, including the expansion of China’s national quantum communications infrastructure, the development of a general quantum computer prototype, and the construction of a practical quantum simulator. China is also building the National Laboratory for Quantum Information Sciences, which, with over $1 billion in initial funding, could emerge as a key center of gravity for future research and development.
The Chinese military and China’s defense industry have also taken a keen interest in quantum technology. People’s Liberation Army (PLA) may hope to use advances in quantum radar and sensing to offset the U.S. military’s superiority in stealth technology, which could be vulnerable to this new type of detection. Chinese scientists recently tested quantum radar technology on board warships.The PLA Navy is looking to develop a quantum compass for its submarines that would enable them to navigate without the help of BeiDou (China’s counterpart to GPS), enabling independence from space systems that could be compromised in a conflict scenario. And quantum cryptography could give China an edge in securing military communications.
Russia is also pushing the boundaries. Spearheaded by the Russian Quantum Center, Russia announced a breakthrough by designing a quantum computer that can reliably solve basic computations faster than anything else today. two leading Russian quantum computing research institutes – the Russian Quantum Center and the MISiS National University of Science & Technology, also announced the creation of a joint project known as Quantum Center, which aims at combining their efforts to create quantum computers.
Quantum computer could in several decades be powerful enough to break the codes of today’s best cryptography. If the United States fails to develop a similarly strong quantum infrastructure, all of today’s protected data could be at risk. This includes military data that would directly impact operational security (OPSEC), which is the critical communications in any military mission. The United States Department of Defense has requisitioned $899 million for computer science research. While this research focuses largely on quantum computing, the requested amount is only .000046% of the total gross domestic product (GDP).
US passed National Quantum Initiative Act bill in Sep 2018, would establish a federal program for accelerating research and training in quantum computing. The act will release $1.275 billion to help fund several centers of excellence that should help train many quantum engineers. Monroe, Christopher said the new national plan should help the US compete internationally. China is pouring billions of dollars into its own quantum computing projects.
The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy officially launched America’s first National Quantum Coordination Office in March 2019. According to a statement from OSTP, the new office will “work with Federal agencies in developing and maintaining quantum programs, connecting with stakeholders, enabling access and use of [research and development] infrastructure, and supporting the National Science and Technology Council’s (NSTC) Subcommittee on Quantum Information Science.”
“The infrastructure required, the hardware, the personnel, is way too expensive for anyone to go in it alone,” said Prineha Narang, a Harvard University assistant professor of computational materials science. By investing more in basic discovery and training—as the House-passed National Quantum Initiative Act would do—Narang said the U.S. could expand the ranks of scientists and engineers who build quantum computers and then find commercial applications for them.
Quantum computing offers a completely new testbed, using unique behaviors of quantum systems to run calculations, take measurements, transport information, and solve problems in ways that conventional computers, sensors, and systems cannot,” Energy Department Under Secretary for Science Paul Dabbar said in a statement. “The National Quantum Coordination Office will help DOE and the nation maintain our leadership in hardware and software for this new generation of quantum computing.”
The Ontario and Canadian governments have both invested heavily — to the tune of $1 billion in the last decade alone — alongside Lazaridis and others to build the infrastructure and resources needed for quantum dominance. This private-public partnership is responsible for the creation of the Institute for Quantum Computing, the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, the Quantum NanoFab Facility and the Quantum Valley Ideas Lab, all based in Waterloo and focused on different elements of the quantum research life-cycle — from R&D all the way through new product commercialization. British Columbia is home to D-Wave Systems, the first company to have commercialized a quantum computing hardware system.
UK has formulated its National Strategy for Quantum Technologies with the aim to guide new quantum work and investments over the next 20 years to help deliver a profitable, growing and sustainable quantum industry deeply rooted in the UK. The vision is to create a coherent government, industry and academic quantum technology community that gives the UK a world-leading position in the emerging multi-billion-pound new quantum technology markets, and to substantially enhance the value of some of the biggest UK-based industries.
The programme initially benefited from £270 million in 2014, expected to last five years, and used £120 million from this to set up four National Quantum Technology Hubs led by universities and colleges in Oxford, Birmingham, York and Glasgow. A further £80 million investment, announced in early September 2018 will be divided between the hubs and is expected to last an additional five years – averaging just £4 million per hub per year. While the UK’s £80 million is four times less than what scientists asked for, according to Bloomberg this is 12 times less than the US’ $200 million per year, and 125 times less than China’s $10 billion.
The NSW government has backed a proposal for a Sydney Quantum Academy (SQA), which will see researchers from four universities collaborate to advance quantum technologies and link them to industry. The government is providing $15.4 million funding for the academy, bolstered by around $20 million from the University of Sydney, University of NSW, Macquarie University, the University of Technology Sydney and unnamed industry partners. The academy has four stated aims: To encourage students to work across the four institutions, link them to industry through internships and research, support emerging quantum technology startups, and promote Sydney as a global leader in the field.
Quantum Computing Requirements
The few basic building blocks needed for quantum computing, are miniature vacuum packages to store atoms, and lasers that are stable to nine or 10 digits of accuracy, said Chris Monroe of the U.S. National Quantum Initiative and founder of IonQ, For scaling up quantum technology, he sees a strong need for an engineering phase. That is one reason to start a company in which physicists, engineers, and software staff work together on quantum technology.
M Squared built a laser with extreme phase stability for qubits with 99.99% fidelity, said Graeme Malcolm from M Squared Lasers. Still, more qubits are needed and so are more laser systems. Based on market research from Tractica, Malcolm expects the market for lasers in quantum systems to go beyond $1 billion within the next five years. Citing Bill Gates, he noted the limits of current technology: If the sheer volume of mankind’s data grows steadily, we will run out of appropriate computing capacity.
Further standardization of laser technology will be a key issue for the development of very small, inexpensive lasers for quantum computing.
World Quantum Computing race is built on Quantum Centre of Excellence centres
Recent US legislation will authorize the Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) to create new research centers at universities, federal laboratories, and nonprofit research institutes, according to a committee spokesperson. These research hubs would aim to build alliances between physicists doing fundamental research, engineers who can build devices, and computer scientists developing quantum algorithms. The centers could give academics seeking to develop commercial technologies access to expertise and expensive research tools, says physicist David Awschalom of the University of Chicago in Illinois, one of the blueprint’s authors. “The research needs rapidly outpace any individual lab,” he says.
The blueprint recommends that the hubs focus on three areas: developing ultraprecise quantum sensors for biomedicine, navigation, and other applications; hack-proof quantum communication; and quantum computers.
UK strategy also builds on technology hubs. In order to begin the transition from science to technology and to build clusters of activity with industry, EPSRC has invested £120 million in a national network of quantum technology hubs. These are led by the universities of Birmingham, Glasgow, York and Oxford. Each of the quantum hubs is investing in incubator spaces for new businesses, and public funding will be available to develop the facilities – such as in nano-fabrication and high-value electronic production – that companies can use to develop these new devices.
A study of China’s quantum strategy published in September 2018 by the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), a US think tank, noted that the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is recruiting quantum specialists, and that big defense companies like China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation (CSIC) are setting up joint quantum labs at universities. Working out exactly which projects have a military element to them is hard, though. “There’s a degree of opacity and ambiguity here, and some of that may be deliberate,” says Elsa Kania, a coauthor of the CNAS study. China has also managed to cultivate close working relationships between government research institutes, universities, and companies like CSIC and CETC.
Collaboration first step in broad partnership between UChicago, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is joining forces with the University of Chicago and Illinois’s two national laboratories, Argonne National Laboratory and Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, to make the Chicago area a national leader in quantum technology—a rapidly emerging field with revolutionary potential and growing backing from government and industry.
The quantum collaboration, bringing together the intellectual talent, research capabilities and engineering power of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the University of Chicago, Argonne and Fermilab, with the University of Chicago provides management oversight for Argonne and Fermilab. The combined resources of the four institutions create a powerful hub of more than 100 scientists and engineers—among the world’s largest collaborative teams for quantum research.
“Harnessing the laws of quantum mechanics holds great promise for a wide range of technologies. The Chicago Quantum Exchange brings research universities and national laboratories together in an innovative way, making Chicago a unique and powerful hub for the development of critical new technologies,” said Robert J. Zimmer, president of the University of Chicago.
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is joining as a core member of the Chicago Quantum Exchange, which was launched last year by the University of Chicago, Argonne and Fermilab to promote quantum research. The new alliance already has multiple projects underway, including one of the world’s longest quantum communication links to test technology that one day could be the basis for an unhackable network. It will stretch 30 miles between Argonne in Lemont and Fermilab in Batavia.
“For nearly two decades, our four institutions have been at the intellectual epicenter of this field of quantum information science and technology that is being born at the intersection of physics, computing, engineering and materials,” said Robert J. Jones, chancellor of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “The Chicago Quantum Exchange will accelerate the arrival of a new era of innovation and discovery, and it will anchor the quantum revolution right here in Chicago and in the state of Illinois.
The Chicago Quantum Exchange’s capabilities span the range of quantum information—from basic solid-state experimental and theoretical physics, to device design and fabrication, to algorithm and software development. The four members each bring unique capabilities, talents and resources to the partnership.
UChicago’s Institute for Molecular Engineering boasts one of the nation’s leading programs in quantum engineering, and faculty across IME and the Physical Sciences Division at UChicago hold deep expertise in quantum physics, computing, communications and sensing. UIUC faculty have been pioneers in laying the foundations for this field—from the theory of superconductivity to the development of nanoscale quantum devices such as the first visible semiconductor lasers.
Argonne’s quantum research includes discoveries of new materials and devices for solid-state qubits—the quantum computer version of a bit. The national lab has expansive experimental and computational infrastructure. Fermilab scientists, together with academic and tech industry partners, are applying their world-leading expertise in superconducting accelerator technology to applications that include using quantum sensors for scientific discovery and developing quantum algorithms and simulations for higher-energy physics problems.
Centres of Excellence
The Centre for Quantum Technologies (CQT) is a national Research Centre of Excellence (RCE) in Singapore. It brings together physicists, computer scientists and engineers to do basic research on quantum physics and to build devices based on quantum phenomena. Experts in this new discipline of quantum technologies are applying their discoveries in computing, communications and sensing. The Centre was established in December 2007 with support from Singapore’s National Research Foundation and Ministry of Education. CQT is hosted by the National University of Singapore (NUS) and also has staff at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD).
The University of Technology Sydney (UTS) has launched its new Centre for Quantum Software and Information (CQSI). Speaking at the launch on Monday, UTS Deputy vice chancellor of Research Glenn Wightwick said the new centre will be solely dedicated to the development of the software and information processing infrastructure required to run applications at quantum scale.
The Center for Quantum Science and Engineering (CQSE) at Stevens Institute of Technology pursues innovative quantum engineering research, development and education including bringing photonic technologies into reality, networking, remote sensing, machine learning, big data processing and quantum computing.
University of Technology Sydney (UTS) Centre for Quantum Software and Information (CQSI)
The new centre has five research programs: Algorithms and complexity, artificial intelligence applications, programming and verification, intermediate quantum computing and architectures, and information theory and security.
Quantum algorithms and complexity
Important questions in the area include: “Can we harness the power of quantum mechanics in solving real-world problems?”, “How to enrich the quantum algorithm toolbox and develop new designing methodologies and frameworks”, and “What are the ultimate limitations of quantum computing?”.
Good quantum algorithms are notoriously hard to design. Several methodologies such as the quantum Fourier transform, phase estimation, amplitude amplification, quantum walks and Hamiltonian simulation form a basic toolbox that provides viable approaches to the designing of quantum algorithms. One of our fundamental research problems is to better understand these existing methodologies and, more importantly, to come up with completely new frameworks that can assist the design of quantum algorithms, and to find broader applications of quantum algorithms to real-world problems in artificial intelligence, machine learning, big data science, approximation algorithms, and optimisation.
Even though quantum computers are believed to be a much more powerful model than classical computers, they have their own limitations. Exploring the limits of quantum computing in different models, finding how they relate to classical complexity classes, and characterising the boundary of efficient quantum computation, provide deeper understanding of quantum computation. Research in this direction also has interesting applications to verifications of quantum computation, delegations of quantum computing and post-quantum cryptography.
AI applications of quantum computing
The last few years have seen revolution and investment explosion in both quantum computing and artificial intelligence. The aim of our current and future research in QSI is to discover the deep interaction between quantum computing and artificial intelligence.
Spatial and temporal reasoning: Using AI approaches to represent and reasoning with qualitative spatial and temporal knowledge.
Quantum constraint solving: Develop quantum algorithms to solve hard constraint satisfaction and optimisation problems in general and spatial and temporal reasoning in particular.
Quantum machine learning: Develop machine learning applications for small-mid size quantum devices.
Quantum property testing: Designing algorithms and measurements that can efficiently handle very large amount of quantum data.
Intermediate quantum computing and architectures
The ultimate goal of quantum computing is to build devices that dramatically outperform existing classical computers, the realization of which will yield a new era in computing. However, they are extremely difficult to build so it will be some time before we can manufacture devices that can achieve the full predicted capabilities of quantum computation. Despite this, recent results from complexity theory have revealed that quantum supremacy over classical devices might be achieved even with quantum computers with capabilities intermediate between classical and quantum computation.
Research teams around the world are now racing to be the first to unambiguously demonstrate quantum supremacy. At the QSI we are focussed on identifying tasks that demonstrate quantum supremacy in the easiest, and cheapest, way possible. This involves theoretically identifying experimental benchmarks, designing architectures capable of achieving them, and working with experimental teams to bring it to reality.
Quantum programming and verification
Programming methodologies and technologies are a central theme of computer science. Due to the essential differences between the nature of the classical world and that of the quantum world, today’s programming techniques are not suited to quantum computers. Furthermore, as human intuition is poorly adapted to the quantum world, design and implementation errors will creep into complex quantum software and cryptographic systems. Quantum programming and verification group at QSI investigates how to program a future quantum computer, and in particular, how quantum features such as superposition and entanglement can be fully exploited in the new programming models. This group also aims to develop formal methods and automatic tools for verification of quantum programs and cryptographic protocols.
Quantum information theory and security
Quantum information and communication technology is the fundamental backbone for larger quantum networks that can consist of clusters quantum cryptographic, computing, and/or sensing nodes. The advantage of such networks over their classical counterparts lies in their ability to exploit the more delicate systems that are permitted by quantum mechanics. Quantum cryptographic systems have the advantage of mathematically provable security and privacy, fundamentally addressing the increasing security threat to communication caused by the advancement of information and communications technologies. In recent years quantum cryptography has been the subject of intense research and rapid progress, and it has demonstrated great potential to become the key technology to maintain privacy of communication. The quantum information theory and security group at QSI aims to develop necessary theories and technologies for the implementation of quantum-enhanced networks.
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