Quantum Machines joins European academics in race to create error-corrected qubits

Quantum Machines, an Israel-based enabler of quantum computing cloud-based infrastructure, is working with a consortium of European research institutions on a three-year project to implement and demonstrate the scalability of an error-corrected qubit, the parties said in launching their QuCoS project this week.

The research and academic partners for the project include Prof. Gerhard Kirchmair from the University of Innsbruck; Prof. Benjamin Huard from the Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon; Dr. Zaki Leghtas from Mines ParisTech and the Ecole Normale Supérieure de Paris; Dr. Ioan Pop from Karlsruher Institut für Technologie; Prof. Mazyar Mirrahimi from the French National Institute for Research in Computer Science and Automation; and Dr. Luiza Buimaga-Iarinca from the Romanian National Institute for Research and Development of Isotopic and Molecular Technologies. 

According to Quantum Machines’ press release on the launch, the partners are aiming to develop quantum computation “with Schrödinger cat states. The project is a radically new approach for quantum computing which will pave the way for an advanced European quantum processor equipped with error-corrected qubits.”

Developing error correction in quantum computing, with the long-term goal of enabling fault-tolerant quantum computers, has been seen as a key gating factor to broadening availability and implementation of quantum computing across numerous industries. Even as companies like Google and IBM have developed quantum systems with hundreds of qubits, there have continued to be concerns about “decoherence,” or susceptibility to errors.

It’s not a challenge that any one company or research institution can solve on its own, according to Quantum Machine CEO Itamar Sivan, who said by email, “The challenge of building logical qubits (meaning they are error-corrected), like everything else in quantum computing, is a highly non-trivial technical problem. This challenge involves multiple disciplines ranging from physics, to electrical engineering and  data science (both quantum and classical). Mastering every aspect of the problem within a single company or research institute, while not impossible, is highly impractical… We believe in the importance of collaborations such as this once where each participant is at the top of their respective field and brings their best to the table.”

Even with many big brains focused on the same problem, it’s difficult to say how quickly the consortium will make progress. What Quantum Machines will bring to the table is an orchestration platform for controlling the different components of quantum architectures.

“Control of qubits has always been part of the design process of any quantum information experimental setup,” Sivan said. “Essentially, the qubits are like a muscle doing the heavy computational lifting, but to do anything, they require a brain that controls them (a classical computer). Traditionally, such control has been done with lab equipment that was designed with other purposes in mind, and was not optimized for quantum experiments. This means that quantum researchers must spend a large amount of their time repurposing these tools and programming low level code to run any experiment, and what’s worse is if they want to change a variable it’s basically like starting all over again.”

If Quantum Machines and its academic partners can achieve their goals, it won’t just be a victory for the individuals involved and their institutions, but also a victory for the countries of Europe and Quantum Machines’ home nation of Israel at a time when something of a global quantum computing innovation race has developed between different countries and regions, with the U.S. and China among the leaders. “There's certainly a race,” Sivan said. “There's a race between corporate entities, there's competition between countries and there's competition between academic research groups. It makes this all very exciting.”

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