American technology company International Business Machines Corp. launched a research partnership with Japanese industry on Thursday to accelerate progress in quantum computing and deepen ties between the two countries in an emerging and sensitive area.
Members of the new group, including Toshiba Corp and Hitachi Ltd, will have cloud-based access to IBM’s US quantum computers. The group will also gain access to a quantum computer known as IBM Q System One, which IBM is expected to set up in Japan in the first half of next year. The Quantum Innovation Initiative Consortium will be based at the University of Tokyo and will also include Toyota Motor Corp., financial institutions and chemical manufacturers. The goal is to increase Japan’s quantum skills and enable companies to develop applications for the technology.
It follows an agreement between IBM and the university signed late last year for further cooperation on quantum computing, which promises to replace today’s supercomputers by exploiting the properties of subatomic particles. “We’re trying to build a quantum industry,” Dario Gil, director of IBM Research, told Reuters. “It will take these large-scale efforts.”
The partnership comes as the United States and its allies compete with China in the race to develop quantum technology that could spur advances in artificial intelligence, materials science and chemistry. “We must recognize that quantum is an extremely important, competitive and sensitive technology and we treat it as such,” Gil said.
Last September, IBM said it would bring a quantum computer to Germany and partner with an applied research institute there. IBM strives to at least double the power of its quantum computers every year and hopes that its system will become a service that supports the operations of companies behind the scenes.
Quantum computers rely on superconductivity that can only be achieved at temperatures close to absolute zero, making developing viable systems an enormous technical challenge.