Why is India Investing in Quantum Computing Research?

As reported on in our last blog, the Indian Government in its recent budget announced its plans to invest $1.12 billion in quantum computing research over the next five years. Quantum technology is seen as the next step to make computers both...

As reported on in our last blog, the Indian Government in its recent budget announced its plans to invest $1.12 billion in quantum computing research over the next five years.

Quantum technology is seen as the next step to make computers both faster and smarter. It is already laying the foundation for unbreakable codes, computers that can crunch numbers at an incredible rate, and super-speedy database searches. Such functionalities will also be important to deploy artificial intelligence at a larger scale (AI).

Quantum technology is clearly the future, but how can it make our lives better? Quantum technology could spur the development of new breakthroughs in science, for example medications to save lives, machine learning methods to diagnose illness sooner, new more efficient materials, and algorithms to quickly direct resources such as ambulances.

What is Quantum computing? | Quantum computing works on something called qubits, where is a regular computer is guided by bits. The difference is that while a bit can only represent a one or zero, a qubit can represent a one, zero or both at the same time. This key ability makes quantum computers extremely powerful compared to conventional computers. In layman’s terms, quantum computing could resolve problems that may take thousands of years for conventional systems to work out.

For a long time, the potential for quantum-related research was not really recognized in India. Yet, last year the Department of Science & Technology (DST), set up a research project named Quantum-Enabled Science & Technology (QuEST), with ₹80 crores ($11.2 million) in funding, at an institute in Hyderabad.

India’s new quantum mission, to be administered by DST, is a considerable increase on past commitments. The funding boost will ensure that India can make significant contributions in these disruptive technologies. The new mission will coordinate the work of scientists, industry leaders and government departments. One aim is to develop a 50-qubit computer within 4-5 years. This is ambitious, but certainly achievable given the strengths if the Indian ICT sector. What may work in India’s favor is forging partnerships with like-minded countries to make progress.

Aerospace engineering, numerical weather prediction, secure communications, cryptography, financial transactions, cyber security, advanced manufacturing, health, and agriculture are examples of sectors where India would like to spearhead scientific breakthroughs and boost quantum technology-led economic growth.

The European Commission, US, China, Japan, Germany and Canada have all announced ambitious schemes to boost quantum computing programs.

In Sweden, Wallenberg Centre for Quantum Technology was launched in 2018. It’s a ten-year 1 billion SEK initiative to bring Swedish research and industry to the front of the second quantum revolution. The aim of the initiative is to build a 100-qubit superconducting quantum computer, thereby establishing long-term cutting-edge expertise in this field. The Centre is a coordinated effort by Chalmers University of Technology, KTH Royal Institute of Technology and Lund University, with support from Stockholm University and Linköping University.

It is obvious that quantum technology will transform several sectors from cryptography to healthcare to many others not yet foreseen. By focusing on the long-term collaboration between Sweden and India in quantum computing and by attracting the best young researchers (including from India) to Sweden, we can put Sweden on the quantum technology map in the long term.

Greetings from  OSI India – Emma, Leena, Mini and Fanny