IBM paves the way for Quantum Computing in Europe

Quantum computing is considered to be the key technology of the 21st century. IBM and Fraunhofer join forces to bring the first quantum computer to European soil.

Disclaimer: This article is part of a paid content marketing collaboration with IBM. Nevertheless, it reflects my own views and ties in smoothly with my recent article about the Future of Computing. Hope you enjoy reading it.

IBM has a long history with Europe, dating back to the beginning of the 20th century.

Today, IBM is working with the Fraunhofer Society, Europe’s leading applied research organization, to commission the continent’s first IBM Q System One.

More specifically, Europe’s first physical quantum computer is currently being built at an IBM data center in Ehningen, near Stuttgart, Germany. This is great news for the local site.

However, before we go into more detail about what is happening there, let us first address the question of what quantum computers are in the first place and what makes them so exciting.

Quantum Computing in a Nutshell

Many consider quantum computing to be the key technology of the 21st century. Nevertheless, neither the paradigm nor the underlying quantum physics is new. The latter has been known for over 100 years.

Richard Feynman formulated the first thoughts on quantum computers as early as 1981. This happened at the first “Physics and Computation” conference, hosted by MIT and IBM. Feynman’s basic idea was that problems from the quantum world, such as molecular movements, cannot be calculated exactly.

Even not with future (today’s) supercomputers. He was right.

However, a computer that operates according to the same laws, namely based on quantum mechanical states, would very well be able to calculate these processes. At least that is the theory.

Seen in this light, quantum computers are more of an addition to the computing landscape. Nevertheless, they are definitely accelerators or even enablers for applications such as:

  1. Simulating Quantum Systems (Chemistry, Materials Research, High Energy Physics)
  2. Artificial Intelligence (Model Training, Pattern Recognition, Fraud Detection)
  3. Optimization (Portfolio Optimization, Risk Analysis, Credit Scoring, Monte-Carlo-like Applications)

For the actual calculations, quantum computers use so-called qubits. In this context, both the superposition principle and quantum entanglement are used.

Already, quantum computers are showing that they can perform specific calculations in seconds that would take current supercomputers thousands of years.

And this, although current quantum computers still calculate with very small quantities of qubits (50-70). Consequently, the huge potential can hardly be quantified.

Experts say that commercially viable quantum computers will require more than one million qubits. See also IBM’s roadmap:

A look at IBM’s roadmap to advance quantum computers from today’s noisy, small-scale devices to larger, more advance quantum systems of the future. Credit: StoryTK for IBM
IBM’s roadmap to advance quantum computers. Credit: StoryTK for IBM

Nevertheless, even today, experts are already seeing the first successes and results, such as the creation of a quantum material.

Europe’s First Quantum Computer Is Built Near Stuttgart

However, we still have a long way to go before we reach advanced quantum computers. From a European perspective, it is therefore all the more important to embark on this journey at an early stage. This is the only way to successfully help shape a decisive technology of the future.

Against this background and under the impression of the economic crisis caused by the COVID19 pandemic, the German government decided in June of this year to set up an economic stimulus package. As part of this economic stimulus package, two billion euros alone are to flow into the funding of quantum technologies.

With the aim of advancing Germany and Europe in the field of quantum computing, IBM and the Fraunhofer Society launched a cooperation on quantum computing technologies and their future fields of application back in the spring.

IBM and Fraunhofer Join Forces

A smart choice on both sides, interlinking Europe’s largest applied research and development services organization with IBM’s global Q-Network.

The goal of this partnership is to put the topic of quantum computing on the agenda of research institutions and companies of all sizes and in all industries. The technical basis is the first IBM Q System One computer in Europe, which is currently being set up in an IBM data center south of Stuttgart.

Researchers and developers can already access IBM quantum computers in the USA via the IBM Cloud. For interaction, IBM also brings the open-source SDK Qiskit, for example.

Martin Jetter, Senior Vice President and Chairman IBM Europe, also recently brought up a statewide innovation dialogue on quantum computing. The conversation with the minister president of Baden-Württemberg focused on unleashing the technology’s enormous potential through collaboration among a network of companies, institutions, developers, educators and scientists.

Consequently, one of the first users of the quantum computer will be the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Solid State Physics IAF. The goal is to go into operation at the beginning of next year

The near future therefore has all kinds of exciting things in store for quantum fans. This also applies to Europe and Germany in particular.

The first physical quantum computer on European soil represents a quantum leap for the further development of this important technology in Europe. Furthermore it is a prime example of successful cooperation.

We can be curious. I will report.

Header Image Source: IBM

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