IBM brings ‘utility-scale’ quantum computing to Japan as China and Europe struggle to compete


IBM announced the completed installation of a 127-qubit quantum computing system at the University of Tokyo on Nov. 27. According to the company, this marks the arrival of the first “utility-scale” quantum system in the region.

The system, dubbed a “Quantum System One” by IBM and featuring the company’s Eagle processor, was installed as part of an ongoing research partnership between Japan and IBM. According to a blog post from IBM, it will be used to conduct research in various fields, including bioinformatics, materials science and finance.

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Per Hiroaki Aihara, executive vice president of the University of Tokyo:

“For the first time outside North America, a quantum computer with a 127-qubit processor is now available for exclusive use with QII members… By promoting research in a wide range of fields and realizing social implementation of quantum-related technologies, we aim to make a broad contribution to a future society with diversity and hope.”

While Japan and the University of Tokyo reap the benefits of working with a U.S. quantum computing partner, China’s second-largest technology firm, Alibaba, has decided to shutter its own quantum computing laboratory and will reportedly donate its equipment to Zhejiang University.

Local media reports indicate the Alibaba move is a cost-cutting measure and that dozens of employees associated with the quantum research lab have been laid off. This follows the cancellation of a planned cloud-computing spin off earlier this month, with Alibaba stating that the U.S. partial export ban on computer chips to China has contributed to “uncertainty.”

Related: US official confirms military concerns over China’s access to cloud technology

The quantum computing sector is expected to grow by more than $5.5 billion between 2023 and 2030, according to estimates from Fortune Business Insights. This has led some experts to worry over the state of quantum computing research in areas outside of the U.S. and China.

Koen Bertels, founder of quantum computing accelerator QBee and a professor at University of Ghent in Belgium recently opined that Europe had already lost the AI race and couldn’t afford to lose at quantum computing.

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“In addition to being behind in funding, talent, and strategy,” wrote Bertels, “Europe isn’t only competing against the US.”

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Author: Tristan Greene


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