Industry-Sponsored Research Week

Quantum computing companies partnering up with academia as IBM-Q Network rolls on

By David Schwartz
Published: January 14th, 2020

Toward the end of 2019, a flurry of announcements by some of the most prominent IT companies suggests that industry-academic collaborations will become increasingly competitive as the players jockey for position. The companies in question include some of the biggest in the industry, including IBM and Microsoft, as well as Amazon Web Services, a new entrant in the field.

IBM has been especially active in bringing international research groups into its Q Network. Initial research collaborators included Keio University (Japan), the University of Munich (Germany), the University of Melbourne (Australia), the University of Oxford (UK), the International Iberian Nanotechnology Laboratory (Portugal), the University of Montpellier (France), National Taiwan University (Taiwan), Oak Ridge National Laboratory (USA), and NC State University (USA).  

In July of last year, the company announced it had gathered another set of European universities and research organizations into the Q Network, including Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH Zurich), Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden, and Saarland University in Germany. That followed closely the opening of an IBM Q hub at Spain’s Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC).  

In September 2019, IBM teamed up with Germany’s Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft with a Q System One installation (IBM’s first edition of a commercial system), which will serve as a hub for European researchers and businesses allied with Fraunhofer. Then in December IBM and the University of Tokyo announced the Japan-IBM Quantum Partnership, a collaboration that will encompass other universities, as well as industry and government groups. It will also include a System One installation, as well as a quantum system technology center.

Most recently, at the CES conference last week, IBM announces a slew of new partners in the Q Network, boosting its total number of partnering organizations over 100. The new members include major companies in a wide range of industries, as well as university partnerships with Georgia Tech, Stanford, and Los Alamos National Lab.

“We are entering the quantum age, and IBM is working with our partners to apply this new technology in a way that can solve major business and societal problems,” said Dario Gil, director of IBM Research. “Quantum computing will have a profound impact on key issues like finding new materials to capture carbon in the global fight against climate change, as well as the discovery of new chemistries that might power more energy efficient batteries.”  

But IBM is far from alone in its quest to dominate the quantum world.

Microsoft is playing catch-up, having focused not on hardware but on their Q# offering, a language for developing quantum computing applications. More recently, however, the  company developed a more complete quantum computing stack along with its new cloud-based Azure Quantum service and brought in a set of partners that offer workable quantum computers for that service.

Those hardware providers include IonQ and Honeywell, as well as Quantum Computing Circuits (QCI), a Yale University spinout that has developed a novel way to error-correct superconducting qubits.

Amazon has also joined the quantum party with a new AWS cloud offering called Amazon Braket. Announced last month in conjunction with a couple of other quantum initiatives, Braket is designed to be a “fully managed service that allows scientists, researchers, and developers to begin experimenting with computers from multiple quantum hardware providers.”

In conjunction with the Braket launch, Amazon also unveiled the AWS Center for Quantum Computing at Caltech that will take advantage of the university’s talent to “accelerate development of quantum computing hardware and software.” Also announced was the Amazon Solutions Lab, a program to hook up AWS customers with quantum computing experts both within and outside the company.

The companies involved in quantum tech share roughly the same strategy, not focused too much on hardware but rather on the quantum ecosystem, and the development of tools and services. All of them are expected to continue adding research partners to help bolster their respective ecosystems.

Sources: The Next Platform and Yahoo! Finance

Posted under: University-Industry Engagement Week

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