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The Israel Innovation Authority is building a new quantum computing research center - what will the impact be?

Neil Raden Profile picture for user Neil Raden September 23, 2022
The Israel Innovation Authority recently announced plants to build a quantum computing research center. The center will be led by Israeli startup Quantum Machines. How will this impact the quantum computing field?

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In July 2022,  the Israel Innovation Authority announced a budget of NIS 100 million ($29 million) to build a quantum computing research center headed by Israeli startup Quantum Machines, which will also help create a quantum computer.

Israel’s new quantum computing center is part of the NIS 1.25 billion ($390 million) Israel National Quantum Initiative, launched in 2018 to facilitate relevant quantum research, develop human capital in the field, encourage industrial projects, and invite international cooperation on R&D.

Israel has about two dozen startups and companies currently focused on quantum technologies, including Quantum Machines, which raised $50 million last September. The company was founded in 2018, and went on to develop a standard universal language for quantum computers, as well as a unique platform that helps them run.

According to the Times of Israel, Defense Ministry’s Directorate of Defense Research and Development (DDR&D) will issue a separate tender to finance the development of quantum technologies for military use for another NIS 100 million, the innovation authority said. According to their joint announcement Tuesday, the budget will fund two parallel avenues. The Israel Innovation Authority will focus on developing the infrastructure for quantum computational ability, which, it said, may include the use of technology from abroad. Meanwhile, the Defense Ministry’s Directorate of Defense Research and Development (DDR&D) will establish a national center with quantum capabilities that will work with academia, industry, and government partners to develop a quantum processor and a complete quantum computer.

Tech giants like Google, Microsoft, IBM, and Intel are all racing to make quantum computing more accessible and build their systems. Countries such as China, the US, Germany, India, and Japan are pouring millions into developing their quantum abilities.

According to recent market projections, the global quantum computing market size was expected to have been worth $487.4 million in 2021, and reach $3.7 billion by 2030. Israel’s $29 million is minuscule compared to the governments above, and the tech elephants. 

These government-funded initiatives to achieve dominance in critical technology remind me of Japan’s Fifth Generation, which never really reached its goals.

Itamar Sivan, co-founder and CEO of Quantum Machines, said in a company statement that the project's goal was “to give Israeli companies access to the most advanced quantum technologies and services so that they can develop deep quantum expertise across industry and academia. This expertise will allow Israeli companies across various sectors and industries to gain a leading global position.”

Quantum Machines, founded in 2018, has built a hardware and software solution — Quantum Orchestration Platform (QOP) — for operating quantum systems to facilitate research and enable future breakthroughs. The startup also developed the QUA, a standard universal language for quantum computers that will allow researchers and scientists to write programs for varied quantum computers with one unified code. Quantum Machines, together with a consortium of Israeli and international quantum tech companies at the center, will build a quantum computer to be made available to the commercial and research communities.

Israel’s $29 million is minuscule compared to the governments above and tech elephants. According to recent market projections, the global quantum computing market is expected to grow from about $470 million in 2021 to about $1.765 billion by 2026.

Quantum Machines - an ambitious Israeli startup

Quantum Machines is an exciting company. They possess no quantum computer of their own, and their products are somewhat unique. While most quantum computers are in labs as objects of experiments by scientists, Sivan explained something I didn’t realize to me. According to Sivan, a quantum computer needs three elements: a quantum computer and an orchestration platform of (conventional) hardware and software. There is no software in a quantum computer. The platform manages the progress of its algorithm mainly through laser beam pulses. The logic needed to operate the quantum computer resides with and is controlled by the orchestration platform. 

The crucial difference between Google's and Quantum Machines' strategy is that Google views the current NISQ state of affairs as a testbed for finding algorithms and applications for future development. At the same time, Sivan and his company produced an orchestration platform to put the current technology into play. Their platform is quantum computer agnostic – it can operate with any of them. Sivan feels that focusing solely on the number of qubits is just part of the equation.

The center will offer access to research and development on three quantum processing technologies — superconducting qubits, cold ions, and optic compute — and provide services to the Israeli quantum computing community, the Israel Innovation Authority said Sunday. As per the Times of Israel:

Ami Appelbaum, chairman of the Israel Innovation Authority, said the new center was 'the answer to an existing strategic market failure and is part of the authority’s policy of enabling the industry to maintain its leading position at the forefront of breakthrough and disruptive technologies.'

'Quantum computing is a technology Israeli industry cannot ignore,' said Israel Innovation Authority CEO Dror Bin in a statement Tuesday. 'The industry must develop knowledge and access to infrastructure in which it can develop growth engines for activities it will decide to lead.'

My take

I've always believed that action speaks louder than words. While Google is taking the long view, Quantum Machines provides the platform to see how far we can go with current technology. As I wrote in The unpredictable rise of quantum computing - have recent breakthroughs accelerated the timeline?

Google suggests the real unsolved problems in fields like optimization, materials science, chemistry, drug discovery, finance, and electronics will take machines with thousands of qubits and even envision one million on a planar array etched in aluminum. Major problems need solving, such as noise elimination, coherence, and lifetime (a qubit holds its position in a tiny time slice).

Google’s tactics are familiar. Every time you use TensorFlow, it gets better. Every time you play with their autonomous car, it gets better. Their collaboration with a dozen technically advanced companies improves their quantum technology. 

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