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DARPA awards Rigetti another deal for work on scheduling problems

By Dan O'Shea posted 04 Oct 2023

Rigetti Computing announced that it has earned a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) project on the topic of scheduling problems as part of the agency’s Imagining Practical Applications for a Quantum Tomorrow (IMPAQT) program targeting the use of quantum algorithms to solve combinatorial optimization problems. 

Financial terms were not disclosed.

The awarding of the DARPA project comes on the heels of another government deal for Rigetti, the previously announced five-year pact with Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) for quantum foundry services. The increased engagement with government and military clients could foretell a positive end to 2023 for Rigetti, a company that struggled late last year, ultimately losing founder and CEO Chad Rigetti and and later laying off 28% of its workforce.

Rigetti has been working with DARPA since at least 2020, when it was given a deal worth up to $8.6 million to work with the Universities Space Research Association and NASA on quantum computing solutions for scheduling problems as part of a program called Optimization with Noisy Intermediate Scale Quantum devices (ONISQ). That work last year advanced to a second phase.

Scheduling problems are among the best-known and most pervasive types of combinatorial optimization problems across numerous industries, and are some of the most challenging to solve as the ability of quantum machines to solve them is limited by the available number of qubits on a QPU. Rigetti’s project, called  “Scheduling Problems with Efficient Encoding of Qubits” (SPEEQ), seeks to develop a novel and efficient encoding of optimization problems onto qubits, with the goal of enabling larger problems to be mapped to currently available NISQ-era quantum computers, according to a Rigetti statement.

The qubit-efficient encoding scheme proposed in the SPEEQ project has potential for numerous benefits beyond solving scheduling problems, Rigetti stated, adding that novel algorithms that solve hard combinatorial optimization problems could have a profound impact on supply chains, logistics, and other industries with complex operations.

Rigetti CEO Dr. Subodh Kulkarni commented, “One of Rigetti’s main goals is to develop practical applications for quantum computing. Being selected to work on the DARPA IMPAQT program gives us the opportunity to go further with our algorithm research, in this case with optimization problems – a class of problems with a broad impact on society. Advancements in algorithms for hybrid quantum-classical quantum computing systems will be very important in reaching narrow quantum advantage.” 

The SPEEQ project emerged from findings in Rigetti’s earlier work on the ONISQ program, “Scheduling Applications with Advanced Mixers” (SAAM), and will leverage the findings and benchmarks from the SAAM project to address a central question regarding the trade-off between number of qubits used and number of quantum operations used, which is critical in designing new algorithms.

Dan O’Shea has covered telecommunications and related topics including semiconductors, sensors, retail systems, digital payments and quantum computing/technology for over 25 years.

Categories: quantum computing

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