Back in 2021, at an international conference, it was stated that quantum computing is the next game changer. There will be quantum computing and simulation, quantum communications, and quantum timing and sensing. We will probably have a quantum computer in our pockets in the next 20-30 years. Well, how has the world progressed since then?
Venkat Subramaniam, Lead, Quantum, IBM Research India, tells us more. Excerpts from an interview:
DQ: Can you provide an overview of India’s National Quantum Mission?
Venkat Subramaniam: Quantum computing is a rapidly emerging technology that promises to be a transformative force shaping the future of both the Indian and global economies as this technology continues to advance. The Indian government is committed to establishing India as a global player in quantum technologies, and the National Quantum Mission (NQM) is a significant step in that direction.
NQM, a government-led initiative, is dedicated to propelling R&D efforts in the field of quantum technologies. Its primary objective is to expedite and bolster the growth and implementation of quantum technologies across four critical domains: computing, communication, sensing, and materials and devices.
In addition, NQM will focus on skill development, R&D efforts, and building an ecosystem that addresses issues of national concern.
DQ: Where does India currently stand in its quantum journey? What more do you think needs to be done to drive it forward?
Venkat Subramaniam: India has undeniably made substantial progress in its quantum endeavors, while encountering both, challenges and prospects, for further growth. The nation boasts significant expertise in quantum technologies R&D within its academic institutions, coupled with recognized capabilities in application and software development. The recent launch of the National Quantum Mission by the government signifies a substantial commitment of resources to propel quantum research and development.
On a global scale, quantum technology is advancing rapidly, underscoring the importance of Indian organizations proactively assessing its potential impact on their respective industries and businesses. Identifying the requisite skills necessary for the effective adoption of quantum technology is paramount.
This strategic evaluation is essential for gaining a competitive advantage in this exponentially evolving technological landscape. Concerted collaborative efforts of government, academia, industry, and start-ups will help scale the quantum ecosystem in India and explore new cases.
DQ: Can you elaborate on IBM’s deep history in quantum. How has IBM been pioneering quantum computing across India?
Venkat Subramaniam: IBM has a long history as it relates to quantum computing. In 2016, IBM was the first company to make a universal quantum computer accessible via the cloud and now has an active global community of more than 460,000 users, who have run hundreds of billions of quantum circuits on the world’s largest fleet of more than 20 quantum computers deployed since 2016. The community has also published more than 1,800 research papers based on experiments run on our quantum systems.
In 2017, IBM was the first company to have commercial clients via the IBM Quantum Network. We now work with more than 220 organizations, businesses, research labs, government labs, and educational institutions. It has built a core software platform, Qiskit Runtime, to accelerate the speed at which developers can run quantum algorithms.
In 2020, IBM released its first quantum roadmap to signal how the company plans to move from noisy, small-scale quantum devices to thousand-plus qubit devices that will enable quantum computers to solve hard scientific and business problems. So far, IBM has delivered on every single goal on time, including the debut of its 433-qubit IBM Osprey processor in November 2022, and plans to release a 1,121-qubit processor later this year.
IBM believes that open source access and adoption is how an ecosystem of developers, scientists, educators, and professionals across different industries will get quantum-ready for this next generation of computing.
In India, IBM is nurturing the quantum computing ecosystem through its skilling initiatives, and expanding the IBM Quantum Network to make quantum real for India. India’s leading academic institutions are part of the IBM Quantum Educators program that provides them access to IBM quantum systems, quantum learning resources, and, quantum tools over IBM Cloud. This also allows them to work on actual quantum computers and program them using the Qiskit open-source framework.
IBM Quantum and IIT Madras also jointly offer a course on quantum computing on the NPTEL Platform – one of the highest registered quantum courses in the country. In 2022, IIT Madras joined the IBM Quantum network and together, we are exploring practical applications in the areas of finance and chemistry.
Indian start-up BosonQ Psi is exploring quantum applications in aerospace, automotive, manufacturing biotech, etc. In addition, the Qiskit community in India is vibrant and actively participates in all global IBM Quantum programs like Qiskit Summer School, IBM Quantum Challenge, Quantum Explorers, and so on.
DQ: With the imminent announcement of the vision document of the Quantum Mission, what do you expect it to contain? How will this prove to further drive the mission forward?
Venkat Subramaniam: With India’s substantial talent pool in quantum technology, the nation stands at the threshold of a remarkable opportunity to emerge as a global leader in this field. The National Quantum Mission is poised to serve as a catalyst, allowing India to harness its inherent strengths, and transform into a prominent quantum-driven economy.
This transformation entails the advancement or innovation of quantum technology and its strategic utilization to address critical challenges across a spectrum of sectors, including healthcare, logistics, and more, where quantum solutions can have a profound and positive impact.