India sees growing interest in quantum computing: IBM

“Quantum computers could open the door to new scientific discoveries, life-saving medicines and improvements in supply chains, logistics and financial data modelling.”

“Quantum computers could open the door to new scientific discoveries, life-saving medicines and improvements in supply chains, logistics and financial data modelling.”

India is seeing growing interest in quantum computing, with active participation from students, developers and academia. Consequently, the country is emerging as a talent hub for quantum computing, said Sandip Patel, MD, IBM India/South Asia Region, in an interview. Edited excerpts

What are the main differences between quantum and classical computing?

Quantum computing is an exciting new technology that will shape our world of tomorrow by giving us a head start and endless possibilities. Quantum computing is a fundamentally different way of processing information compared to today’s classical computer systems. While today’s classical computers store information as binary 0 and 1 states, quantum computers use fundamental laws of nature to perform calculations with quantum bits. Unlike a bit, which must be a 0 or a 1, a qubit can exist in a combination of states, allowing for exponentially larger calculations and giving them the potential to solve complex problems that even the most powerful classical supercomputers are not capable of are able.

How will quantum computing offer an advantage over classical computing when it comes to solving humanity’s everyday life and work challenges?

Quantum computers use the quantum mechanical phenomenon to manipulate information and are expected to shed light on processes of molecular and chemical interactions, solve difficult optimization problems and increase the power of artificial intelligence. Advances like these could open the door to new scientific discoveries, life-saving medicines, and improvements in supply chains, logistics, and financial data modeling. IBM is now actively collaborating with major corporations and governments to advance their quantum roadmaps and expand their quantum talent pool to make quantum computing practical for the benefit of science, industry and society.

How will IBM India contribute to Big Blue’s global initiatives around quantum computing?

In India we are seeing a growing interest in quantum computing with active participation (among the highest) of students, developers and scientists in various initiatives such as IBM Quantum Challenge, IBM Quantum Summer School, Qiskit Challenge-India (Qiskit is an open source software development kit developed by IBM for the quantum developer community) and so on. We also have a growing community of Qiskit Advocates and IBM Quantum Ambassadors in India. In addition, we regularly organize India-focused programs such as the Qiskit India Week of Quantum, which celebrated women in Quantum to boost their journey in Quantum and was attended by nearly 300 students. The Qiskit textbook is available in Tamil, Bengali and Hindi and has been viewed more than 30,000 times by students in India alone in 2021. We see India as a talent hub for quantum computing skills, which is vital to the growth and maintenance of such an interdisciplinary field.

Can you give us some details about IBM’s collaboration with leading institutions in India to accelerate education and research around quantum computing?

Science plays an important role in building capability for any deep technology, including quantum technology. Therefore, last May we announced our collaboration with leading educational institutions in India as part of the IBM Quantum Educators Program. Faculty and students at these institutions can access IBM Quantum systems, quantum learning resources and quantum tools through the IBM Cloud for educational purposes. This allows them to work on real quantum computers and program them with the open source framework Qiskit. In partnership with the Indian Institute of Technology – Madras, IBM ran a course on quantum computing on the NPTEL platform last year, which had more than 10,000 participants. We’re also working with academia to do collaborative research on quantum computing, and recently one of the research papers was accepted at a high-profile physics conference.

What stage is India at in quantum computing, how long will it take to commercialize and where will it find mass applications?

India is poised to play a pivotal role in the quantum technology revolution globally. IBM is committed to helping India advance its quantum agenda by developing the talent and skills landscape and building an ecosystem with industry, business, academia and government. We count on vibrant Indian talent and expertise to help solve some of the most pressing challenges. In line with our quantum roadmap announced in 2021, IBM has unveiled its first 127 qubit processor. In 2022, IBM expanded its quantum roadmap even further to clearly state how we will embark on the journey to frictionless quantum computing. This expanded roadmap includes our plans to build a 4,000+ qubit processor by 2023, as well as key milestones to build an intelligent quantum software orchestration platform that abstracts the noise and complexity of quantum machines and makes it possible to easily solve large and complicated problems solve separately and solved over a network of quantum and classical systems. Once realized, this era of quantum-centric supercomputing will open new, large and powerful computing spaces for industries worldwide.

What is IBM’s human resources strategy in relation to quantum computing for India?

In India we have a strong team working in research, development and consulting, working closely with academia, industry and the public sector. Our team works to support and accelerate India’s national quantum mission and participates in building a strong quantum ecosystem as this is critical to success. The team has constantly grown to support the needs of the Indian ecosystem and is expected to continue to grow in the coming years as they support more and more clients on their quantum journey. We have quantum scientists and engineers around the world doing fundamental research to advance the technology and working with our partners to advance practical applications with a quantum advantage for science and business. Quantum requires multidisciplinary skills, and at IBM, the best scientists and engineers work together to improve the technology and advance applications important to the industry.

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