By Becky Bracken
Countries around the globe are racing to ramp up funding for quantum computing solutions, worried a lack of investment could leave them behind in the race to control a substantial stake in its future.
China’s government is subsidizing research and development of quantum computing aggressively and seeing results. As of April 2021, the American Enterprise Institute found governments around the world have pledged a total of about $20 billion toward quantum, and that the Chinese government was the biggest spender “by a decisive margin.”
Most recently, Chinese researchers unveiled a new 66-bit quantum supercomputer called Zuchohgzhi, which was able to complete a task in 70 minutes that the researchers said would take a classical computer about eight years.
Zuchohgzhi’s performance replicated, then overtook, Google’s 54-bit Sycamore quantum system. Not to be totally outdone, days later, Google’s Quantum AI team announced they has added logical qubits to Sycamore and reduce errors.
But the competition isn’t just between China and the U.S.
Last month Germany announced the government would invest billions in quantum computing and unveiled a brand new IBM System One in Stuttgart for continued research.
“As far as research into quantum technologies is concerned, Germany is among the best of the world, and we intend to remain amongst the best of the world,” Chancellor Merkel said at the highly publicized event. “We’re in the midst of a very intense competition, and Germany has the intention to have an important say.”
The European Union is also planning to kick in a €1 billion to develop quantum computing capability in the region.
Senate Passes Massive Quantum Funding Bill
In June the U.S. Senate passed the bipartisan U.S. Innovation and Competition Act, which invests $110 billion over five years to compete with China’s tech development in areas like AI, robotics and quantum.
Jason Oxman, the CEO of the Information Technology Industry Council recently explained to the Federal News Network in addition to government investment, his organization of 80 member companies plans to keep pushing for additional legislation to create a ripe environment for quantum computing to flourish in the U.S.
Quantum computing researchers also rely heavily on access to Department of Energy testbeds. The DOE also announced an additional $25 million in funding for research on developing a quantum internet.
The pressure on governments to keep up in the quantum computing race is also fueled by national security concerns. The U.S. National Quantum Initiative was established in 2018 with this precise mission in mind.
“Recognizing that QIS technologies have commercial and defense applications, additional authorization for QIS R&D is legislated by the National Defense Authorization Act,” the department says. “Civilian, defense, and intelligence agencies all have a long history of investments in QIS, and have a stake in future QIS discoveries and technology development.”
Government dollars aside, the heavy lifting will fall largely on cooperation between private business and research institutions to make the big breakthroughs.
Google is working on quantum computing solutions in a Santa Barbara, Calif. Lab, which the company’s CEO Sundar Pichai recently visited for an in-person update. He told the BBC he finds the possibilities quantum computing holds “exhilarating.”
Pichai explained quantum isn’t going to be a magic fix for everything, “but there are some things for which quantum computing will open up an entire new range of solutions,” he said.
And international governments are willing to spend billions to get there first.