IT giant Google and German research center Forschungszentrum Jülich today announced a research partnership to develop quantum computing technology. The joint work will focus on training, algorithm development, and mutual use of quantum hardware. Few details were disclosed. Google has long been active in quantum R&D – including processor development. Forschungszentrum Jülich (FJ) is an active participant in the EU’s Quantum Flagship Program and plans to offer publicly accessible a European quantum computer with 50-to-100 superconducting qubits.
The mention of “mutual use” of quantum hardware is interesting. Given Google’s steady progress in processor development, many observers have wondered when (or if) it would offer broader access to its quantum platform the way that IBM, Rigetti, and D-wave Systems have all done via web portals. Google’s Bristlecone quantum processor has 72 qubits. Forschungszentrum Jülich will experiment with Google’s processor but no mention was made of whether it is a candidate chip for Forschungszentrum Jülich’s system.
According to the announcement, training junior researchers and experts is a priority. “A shortage of specialists, like in the field of artificial intelligence, is also foreseeable in the field of quantum computing. For this reason, we invest in training and promoting top academic talent,” said Markus Hoffmann, head of quantum partnerships at Google, quoted in the release.
Here’s an excerpt from the announcement:
The partnership includes regular research exchange. “Hands-on workshop and spring schools will be organised at Forschungszentrum Jülich. The Jülich UNified Infrastructure for Quantum computing (JUNIQ), a European quantum computer user facility planned for the Jülich Supercomputing Centre (JSC), will be available for training industry professionals, and will be accessible in the cloud to European users,” says Prof. Kristel Michielsen from the JSC, head of the research group Quantum Information Processing.
Furthermore, Google and Forschungszentrum Jülich will engage in joint research in the field of hardware and quantum algorithms. Researchers on both sides will perform simulations on supercomputers at the JSC, and experiment with Google’s quantum processors.
Google has focused most on semiconductor-based superconducting technology for use in gate-based quantum computers. Hartmut Neven, technical director at Google and head of the Quantum Artificial Intelligence Lab has argued that recent advances suggest quantum computing will soon achieve quantum supremacy, the ability to perform calculations which classical computers cannot.
Peter Altmaier, Germany’s Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy offered cautious optimism in the release, “At present, quantum computers are still very much at in their infancy, and it is difficult to predict what will become possible – and what perhaps will not. Researchers still have a lot of basic research to do in this area. It was the same situation when we were developing today’s computers. I am therefore delighted that Google and Forschungszentrum Jülich have decided to cooperate in the important forward-looking field of quantum computers.”