3 reasons why a new quantum data centre is important for Europe

Quantum computing is developing at breakneck speed.

Quantum computing is developing at breakneck speed. Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto.

Alessandro Curioni
Vice President Europe and Africa and Director, IBM Research Europe
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Quantum Computing

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  • Quantum computing harnesses quantum mechanics to solve problems too complex for classical computers.
  • IBM has announced plans to build its first European quantum data centre, bringing multiple quantum computers under one roof.
  • Here are three reasons why the timing for accelerating quantum computing efforts couldn’t be better.

While quantum physics goes back decades, quantum computing itself was largely theoretical in the 1980s and 1990s. Fast-forward to the 21st century though, and not only is this technology now out of research labs but it is getting ready to complement other, more traditional, ways of computation such as the classical approach. Multiple companies, big and small, as well as academia are pushing the frontiers of research, making qubits (the basic unit of quantum information) more and more stable and scaling the technology.

Quantum computing is developing at breakneck speed. The technology relies on quantum bits or qubits instead of the regular digital bits. Digital bits operate as an on-off switch, being either a zero or a one. For a quantum system to work though, qubits are able to be in both on and off states simultaneously – a zero and a one at the same time.

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It is this property, called superposition, and other peculiar properties of qubits, that mimic how atoms behave in nature and promise to take computation to a whole new level – and revolutionise the way we discover new materials, forecast financial markets and so much more.

Building a quantum computing ecosystem in Europe

On 6 June 2023, IBM announced plans to build its first European quantum data centre, bringing multiple quantum computers under one roof for users on the continent. It will be the company’s second such centre globally after the one in New York opened in 2019. This step, together with other recent initiatives from the European Commission and many European governments, will ensure setting up a solid quantum infrastructure, critical for the development of a future quantum computing ecosystem in Europe.

The European Commission has recently pledged to invest more than €100 million into the development of quantum computing on the continent, a 17-nation strong initiative called the Quantum Technologies Flagship. The most recent development aims to integrate six EuroHPC quantum computers into existing supercomputers in the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Poland and Spain.

Complementing this initiative, IBM is installing its first quantum computing data centre in Germany next year – with useful and usable quantum computing. Other examples include IQM, a Finnish startup that builds superconducting quantum computers; ORCA Computing in the UK, which is working on photonic quantum systems; and several more companies that are pushing ahead with the technology.

Here are three reasons why the timing for ramping up quantum computing efforts couldn’t be better.

1. Quantum computing technology is entering a point of utility

This is the point when quantum computers become reliable enough to help explore problems that classical systems alone may never be able to solve. Just recently, as detailed in a paper in the journal Nature, IBM researchers showed that quantum computers with processors of more than 100 qubits and effective error mitigation techniques can produce accurate results at a scale and accuracy that could potentially reach beyond leading classical approaches.

This technological maturity is crucial to develop a solid infrastructure for a future quantum ecosystem. A quantum data centre is an important element of such an infrastructure, exploiting the synergies between classical and quantum computers. The quantum systems at the new IBM European quantum data centre will all be powered by a minimum of 127 qubits, to enable scientific progress and use quantum as a new tool of discovery with European organizations leading the way.

2. Businesses, academia and governments finally understand the potential of quantum computing

There is growing recognition of the importance of educating and preparing a future quantum workforce today. In Europe, more than 65 organizations are accessing IBM quantum hardware and software through the cloud. They are among more than 250 clients in the worldwide IBM Quantum Network, which includes industry leaders such as Credit Mutuel in France and T-Systems in Germany. With more and more European organizations jumping on the quantum bandwagon, a dedicated data centre will address the preferences of those that, for a variety of reasons, need to keep their data on the continent.

For example, this is how the Fraunhofer Institute uses the IBM Quantum System One in Ehningen, Germany – so far the only IBM quantum computer in Europe outside of an IBM Research lab. Soon, IBM plans to install another in Spain, at Fundación Ikerbasque. Scientists at the newly formed IBM-Euskadi Quantum Computational Center will explore solutions in physics, information science, and materials science. The systems at the future data centre will join forces with those computers as part of the developing quantum infrastructure.

3. It will foster collaboration and lead to more innovation in Europe

In the future, there will certainly be many quantum data centres around the world, just like we have classical computing data centres today. The technology is finally there, and so is talent to kick-start the quantum era. Europe has many brilliant minds in academia, in governments and in the industry. Working together, we will build a quantum ecosystem bound to lead to quantum applications with a potential to create sizable businesses and advance us towards a quantum advantage.

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