According to the press release the money is to be spent with Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) and TNO, the Dutch Organisation for Applied Research. While the prospect of viable quantum computing is still a decade away according to most researchers, Intel has joined the likes of Google, Microsoft, IBM, the Quantum Wave Fund and Grupo Arcano who have all made significant investments into quantum computing research.
Quantum Computing faster than anything we’ve ever seen
In April, IBM claimed it had overcome one of the major challenges to building a quantum computer when it demonstrated a new form of qubit circuit. In the paper describing the qubit circuits it is alleged that it can be combined and then scaled up to create larger quantum computing chips. To understand the potential of quantum computing it is believed a 50 qubit computer would outperform all of the TOP500 supercomputers put together.
The challenges of producing a quantum computer are significant. It is not just about solving the physics. There are serious challenges around materials science and manufacturing. In its press release Intel said: “..no one company or organization will succeed alone in unlocking the path to advanced quantum computing. Instead, partnerships – such as this one between Intel and the QuTech institute in Delft – and industry collaboration will help realize the promise of such a technically complex issue.”
Intel CEO Brian Krzanich wrote a blog which was released alongside the press announcement. In it he talked about why Intel was working with the TU Delft and TNO as well as the timeframe and complexity of the task. As to why Intel was investing now he said:
“Quantum computing is promising, but there are significant challenges to overcome. It is a subatomic scenario that requires suspending conventional wisdom around basic physics, where an electron can actually be two places at once, spinning clockwise and counterclockwise at the same time.
“This ambiguity is both promising and enormously complex…. and of course, an incredibly exciting challenge to anyone who loves physics, like me. How do we connect thousands of quantum bits, or qubits, together? How can we control them? How can we reliably fabricate, connect and control many more qubits? Even measuring qubit signals is going to require an entirely new class of low temperature electronics that don’t exist today.”
This announcement by Intel counters its critics who felt it was going to be too late to the Quantum Computing party. While Krzanich points out it is still a dozen years or more from a working example, it is possible that in technology timescales this can be suddenly shortened.
At $50m spread over a decade this doesn’t seem like a big investment but it is likely that Intel will be committing close to that in terms of its own engineering resources. For TU Delft, the agreement to put Intel engineers on-site will not only help boost its research but also raise its profile in the scientific community.