Québec is set to become home to what will be the world’s fifth IBM quantum supercomputer. Meanwhile, Toronto-based quantum computing startup Xanadu has received $40 million CAD from the federal government.
The Platform for Digital and Quantum Innovation of Québec (PINQ²) announced on Monday that it is set to begin operating the IBM quantum supercomputer in the second half of this year.
“We are joining a very small global group that has access to such sophisticated technology.”
The computer comes through a partnership between IBM and the Québec government that was first announced in February of last year. It is only the fifth computer installation globally that is based on IBM’s 127-qubit Quantum System One architecture, which was introduced in 2019.
What is being called “the Quantum Computer of Québec” will be the only platform in Canada to operate IBM’s Quantum System One. IBM’s other locations include Germany, South Korea, Japan, and the United States.
“We are joining a very small global group that has access to such sophisticated technology, which will generate a multitude of discoveries and breakthroughs over the years,” said Éric Capelle, general manager of PINQ². “The launching of this new service offering marks a transformative milestone. This is a remarkable new chapter.”
PINQ² is a non-profit organization that was founded by the Ministry of Economy, Innovation and Energy of Québec and the Université de Sherbrooke in 2020. It called the supercomputer an extension of its current offerings, noting that the new quantum computing infrastructure is meant to offer affordable services to companies, institutions, and organizations.
PINQ² provides integrated solutions for a range of sectors, such as healthcare, sustainability, artificial intelligence, and digital media. Its mission is to increase collaboration and the sharing of technology between private industry and academia.
On the same day as PINQ²’s announcement, Xanadu was promised $40 million CAD from the federal government’s Strategic Innovation Fund. The public funding is set to help Xanadu on its mission to build and commercialize “the world’s first photonic-based, fault-tolerant quantum computer.”
The Government of Canada called it a $177.8 million project that is expected to create 530 new highly skilled jobs in the high-tech and quantum computing fields.
The $40 million investment comes a couple of months after Xanadu raised a $100 million USD Series C round that made it a unicorn company. Xanadu’s backers include Georgian, Porsche, Bessemer Venture Partners, BDC Capital, and Draper Fisher Jurvetson’s founding partner Tim Draper. To date, Xanadu has raised $250 million USD.
After launching what Xanadu called the world’s first cloud-deployed photonic quantum computer last year, the startup claimed to have seen growth. The company now has set its sights on building a fault-tolerant and error-corrected quantum computer, which it said would be capable of scaling up to one million qubits.
The federal backing of Xanadu follows shortly after the government unveiled its National Quantum Strategy (NQS). The federal government first shared plans to create a quantum strategy in Budget 2021, allocating $360 million CAD in funding over seven years towards its design and delivery.
The NQS allocated $141 million in federal funding towards quantum research, $45 million to talent, and $169 million towards commercialization.
When the strategy details were shared in January, Minister of Innovation, Science, and Industry François-Philippe Champagne said the federal government wants to help companies like Xanadu bring their tech to market, with nearly half of NQS’ funding geared towards commercialization.
According to The Logic, Xanadu has committed to spend the $177 million for the quantum computer development project between June 2022 and December 2025, as well as to grow its employee base from about 170 people to 210 during that time.
The global race to create the world’s most powerful computers is a competitive one. To date, several companies, including IBM and Google, have developed quantum computer systems. Last year, the industry saw a number of advances on the research front, and for its part, Xanadu hit an elusive milestone, delivering a result beyond the practical reach of a conventional computer system, according to a paper published in the research journal Nature.
However, the broad commercial use that these companies seek is still years away. As The Globe and Mail reported, one challenge is developing enough qubits, and according to Xanadu CEO Christian Weedbrook, the magic number is one million qubits, whereas Xanadu’s latest computer is only 216 qubits.
Feature image courtesy Pixabay.