IBM and its “industrial strategy” in quantum mechanics

IBM’s quantum roadmap claims to be one of the most ambitious yet. Last November, the company said at its Quantum Summit that quantum advantage will be achieved in some applications as early as 2023, when a quantum processor reaches a thousand qubits.

Jay Gambetta, vice president of IBM Quantum, talks to about the group’s strategic vision for bringing quantum technologies to the industrial vocabulary.

Returning to that famous roadmap, the IBM quantum boss said: “We are trying to focus on things that we think are possible. In other words, “It’s still science, but I don’t see anything fundamental that says we won’t succeed.” I am convinced that we will implement each of these elements.”

In general terms, remember that after deploying its first quantum computer in the cloud in 2016, IBM introduced an open source software development kit in 2017 to program these quantum computers. Then, in 2019, the group arrived with their first quantum computing system, IBM Quantum System One. At the same time, IBM shipped a Falcon processor (27 qubits) in 2019, then a year later a Hummingbird (65 qubits) and again a year later an Eagle processor (127 qubits). In 2022, “we are on the right track for Osprey (433 qubits),” Jay Gambetta told , advocating a roadmap that is both “real and aggressive.”

Hybrid strategy for the industry

Aggressive: IBM is indeed introducing 1000 qubit machines for next year. Behind the roadmap, the group outlines very specific goals. “We want to deal with real optimization problems, for example, in finance, or even other use cases in AI and chemistry thanks to quantum technology,” emphasizes Jay Gambetta.

Overall, according to an IBM Quantum vice president, “We want quantum computing to be useful to the industry and not cause friction. This means that classical and quantum technologies work together in a hybrid strategy to create libraries that push the boundaries of what is possible.” But Jay Gambetta clarifies that we are not talking about running something on a quantum processor that already works very well on a conventional processor. “It doesn’t make sense,” he said.

And in this effort to find specific use cases, the industrial ecosystem has more to say than just a word, says Jay Gambetta. “I see a real industrial strategy that we are building with many partners. Some industries will build certain parts of the software stack, others will take care of certain parts of the supply chain, and so on. »

IBM also maintains premium relationships with approximately 180 partners through its Quantum Network. “This is a way for industry and scientists to work together,” says Jay Gambetta.

Access, R&D and workforce

It is also important for Jay Gambetta to continue to invest in research and development and workforce to strengthen these ecosystems. To create professions, the quantum manager insists, in particular, on university training and the possibility of retraining specialized specialists in mathematics.

Thus, the industrial strategy is based on four pillars: “Access, R&D, labor and industry,” notes Jay Gambetta.

When accessed, the manager also notes that other Quantum System One machines are to be deployed at the Cleveland Clinic in the US, Quebec, and South Korea. Quantum systems have already been deployed outside the US, including one in Germany and one in Japan.

As for France, Jay Gambetta oversees a fairly dynamic quantum ecosystem “around promising innovations and interested industries.” While he believes there is room for a few non-IBM technologies such as Pascal’s neutral atoms or Quandela photonics, he encourages startups to “invest in hardware” to keep up with the state of the art without widening the gap.

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