IBM and its “industrial strategy” in quantum

IBM’s quantum roadmap aims to be one of the most ambitious. The company said in November last year, during its Quantum Summit, that the quantum advantage would be reached on certain applications as early as 2023, where the quantum processor would have reached a thousand qubits.

Jay Gambetta, vice president of IBM Quantum, talks to ZDNet about the group’s strategic vision of bringing quantum into the industrial dictionary.

Returning to this famous roadmap, IBM’s quantum manager said, “We’re trying to focus on the things that we think are possible. In other words, ‘It’s still science, but I do not see anything fundamental that says that we will not succeed. “I am convinced that we will implement each of these elements”.

By and large, keep in mind that after installing its first quantum computer in the cloud in 2016, IBM introduced in 2017 an open source software development kit for programming these quantum computers. Then, in 2019, the group arrived with its first quantum computer system, IBM Quantum System One. At the same time, IBM delivered the Falcon processor (27 qubits) in 2019, then a year later the Hummingbird (65 qubits) and again a year later the Eagle processor (127 qubits). In 2022, “we’re on track for Osprey (433 qubits),” Jay Gambetta told ZDNet, which advocates a roadmap that is both “real and aggressive.”

A hybrid strategy for the industry

Aggressive, that is: IBM is actually envisioning 1,000-qubit machines for next year. Behind the roadmap, the group outlines a very concrete ambition. “We want to deal with real optimization problems in, for example, finance, or even other use cases in AI and chemistry thanks to quantum technology,” emphasizes Jay Gambetta.

In summary, according to the Vice President of IBM Quantum, “we want to ensure that quantum data processing is useful for industry and without friction. This means getting classic and quantum to work together in a hybrid strategy to create libraries to push the boundaries of what that can be done. ” But Jay Gambetta clarifies that it is not a matter of running on a quantum processor something that already works very well on a conventional processor. “It makes no sense,” he said.

And in this effort to find concrete cases of application, the industrial ecosystem has more than its word to say, Jay Gambetta believes. “I see a real industrial strategy that we make with many partners. Some industries will create certain parts of the software stack, others will take care of certain parts of the supply chain and so on. »

IBM also maintains premium relationships with around 180 partners in its Quantum Network. “It’s a way for industries and academics to work together,” notes Jay Gambetta.

Access, R&D and workforce

For Jay Gambetta, it is also important to continue investing in R&D and labor to strengthen these ecosystems. To create vocations, the quantum manager especially insists on university education and the potential for retraining expert profiles in mathematics.

To summarize, the industry strategy is therefore based on four pillars, which are “access, R&D, labor and industry”, states Jay Gambetta.

Upon access, the manager also notes that other Quantum System One machines should be installed at the Cleveland Clinic in the United States, Quebec, and South Korea. Quantum systems are already installed outside the United States, including one in Germany and another in Japan.

For France, Jay Gambetta observes a rather dynamic quantum ecosystem “around promising innovations and interested industries”. While he believes there is room for more technologies other than IBM’s, such as Pascal’s neutral atoms or Quandela’s photonics, he urges start-ups to “invest in hardware” to stay top-notch without widening the gap.

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