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NC State becomes first North American school to establish IBM quantum computing hub

By David Schwartz
Published: May 15th, 2018

North Carolina State University will be the first in North America to establish a university-based IBM Quantum Computing hub as part of the global IBM Q Network. The hub is expected to begin operating by October.

The Q Network is a collaboration of Fortune 500 companies, academic institutions and national research labs working directly with IBM to advance the burgeoning field of quantum computing. Three other hubs have already opened – at the UK’s University of Oxford, Keio University in Japan, and the University of Melbourne, Australia.

The hub will give industry and research collaborators early access to IBM’s commercial quantum computing systems, including cloud access to the computer maker’s 20-qubit processor system. IBM expects to make a 50-qubit machine available to members within a year.

NC State researchers and students will work directly with IBM scientists, engineers and consultants to solve real-world problems that are not solvable using conventional computers.

Dennis Kekas, associate vice chancellor for partnerships and economic development at NC State, said the collaboration with IBM builds on a 30-year relationship with the company. That partnership has already led to breakthroughs in cloud computing, advanced analytics, cyber security, renewable energy, advanced networking and healthcare IT. “We know how to work together,” Kekas said.

Kekas said that in addition to NC State faculty and students, the quantum hub will also seek other partners, large commercial enterprises and other universities. “That will come with time,” he said. “The bulk of it will be commercial.”

The advances that could be made possible by quantum computing could revolutionize numerous technical fields, noted Bob Sutor, PhD, IBM’s vice president of quantum strategy and ecosystem. “As far as we know, quantum computing offers significant and clear advantages over classical computing. That’s what we’re hoping to accelerate. We want to get to the point where we understand how to attack problems and provide applications,” he said.

He cautioned against overhyping the possibilities, however. “We have to figure out a lot of science, theory and engineering. It requires real collaboration from the ground up. It’s completely different from classical computing. It will work together with it, rather than replacing it,” Sutor explained. 

One primary goal of the IBM-NC State collaboration is education, Sutor added. “I started coding 45 years ago. Think of students taking computer science now. The timing is perfect for them to start using these quantum computers. They don’t have 45 years of thinking classically. They’ll have the advantage of classic computing, but also of learning fresh the right way to think about quantum. They’re getting in at the ground level as quantum computers start becoming available. So the educational aspect is very important.”

Source: WRAL

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