Today, in spectacular fashion, IBM and the Fraunhofer Institute in Munich, Germany, unveiled a collaborative effort in the form of an IBM Quantum System One computer. IBM said it is Europe’s first and most powerful quantum computer. The motto for the event was “A Quantum Computing Journey in Germany.”
As proof of the event’s importance to Europe, German Chancellor Dr. Angela Merkel was a guest speaker after the opening speech by Dr. Arvind Krishna, CEO, and Chairman of IBM. In addition, the agenda had several other high-ranking speakers from politics and science. Furthermore, at the start of the project, Merkel pledged to invest 650 million Euros ($788 million USD) over a two-year period.
It is a partnership of technology giants. The Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft is one of the world’s leading applied research organizations. It was founded in 1949 and currently operates 75 institutes and research institutions throughout Germany. The majority of its 29,000 employees are qualified scientists and engineers. It has an annual research budget of 2.8 billion euros (3.4 billion USD) funded by contract research. The Fraunhofer Institute will use IBM’s Quantum System One to research and develop chemistry, optimization, and machine learning. Quantum isn’t new to Fraunhofer, the Fraunhofer Competence center for quantum computing is already conducting quantum research in a number of its institutes.
It has been almost two years since IBM first announced its collaborative effort with Fraunhofer. Like many projects, Covid-19 created delays in the quantum plan. Dr. Jeffrey Welser is Vice President, Exploratory Science and University Partnerships for IBM. He said, “This announcement is the fruition of what we announced a long time ago with the Fraunhofer Institute partnership. We finally have the IBM Quantum System One up and running. It wasn’t easy because of COVID. We couldn’t travel to Germany, so we had teams working on it over here.”
Welser went on to say that the IBM team is excited about the installation. Fraunhofer plans on finding quantum use cases with clients and governments. In its press release, IBM refers to the Fraunhofer installation as “the latest example of momentum in what is being called a quantum industry – an industry poised to be worth more than $65 billion by 2030.”
Large IBM footprint
IBM has over 20 quantum computers installed. It also has a large staff of quantum hardware and software researchers to support these machines. As a result, IBM’s quantum footprint is large enough for the company to be its own quantum ecosystem.
The Fraunhofer installation will add a new European quantum hub to the existing IBM Q Network. The hub will help build a community of quantum academics, researchers, developers, and industry experts.
In addition to Fraunhofer, other research organizations are working with IBM. These include The University of Tokyo, CERN (the European laboratory for particle physics), the UK’s Science and Technology Facilities Council, the Cleveland Clinic, and the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
Besides the academic partnerships, IBM has relationships with many large companies, including Daimler, ExxonMobil, JPMorgan Chase, and Boeing. These companies are running prototype experiments to determine quantum’s potential to solve practical quantum applications in finance, materials, logistics, and chemistry.
- The Fraunhofer IBM Quantum System One is a 27-qubit Falcon processor with a quantum volume of 32. Currently, IBM quantum processors range from 5-qubits to 65-qubits. IBM will likely announce its 127-qubit Eagle processor sometime this year.
- In late 2020, IBM released its first long-term quantum roadmap, showing how its quantum architecture, hardware, and qubit count would change over the next few years. IBM plans on evolving its present-day small-scale, noisy quantum computers to a near-term intermediate 1121-qubit machine named Condor. Once perfected, Condor will likely become the future building block for a giant fault-tolerant quantum computer with millions of qubits. Error correction remains the main obstacle for scaling up any quantum computer. EC requires many qubits with good fidelity to begin to do error correction. IBM’s announcements about quantum volume, increased qubit counts, and experimentally increasing T1 coherence time by a factor of 9 are all positive movements toward achieving error correction. Error correction also requires mid-circuit measurement and dynamic circuits. So far, only IBM (superconducting qubits) and Honeywell (trapped-ion qubits) have those features.
- IBM enhanced its hardware roadmap in early 2021 by overlaying an expanded timeline of future applications, new Qiskit software, and developer capabilities on top of the hardware roadmap.
- It is important to note that IBM also offers free access to its open-source educational and training materials. That has helped build a global quantum community with more than 325,000 IBM Qiskit SDK users.
Note: Moor Insights & Strategy writers and editors may have contributed to this article.