Israel’s first quantum computer on its way

With new budget, Israel to lay foundation for quantum computational ability and infrastructure

An illustrative photo of IBM’s Quantum System One, the world’s first integrated quantum computer system. (IBM)
An illustrative photo of IBM’s Quantum System One, the world’s first integrated quantum computer system. (IBM)

THE Israeli Innovation Authority and the Defense Ministry will spend approximately NIS 200 million (US$62 million) to develop Israel’s first quantum computer and lay the foundation for Israeli computational ability, which they said would lead to future developments in economics, technology, security, engineering, and science.

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. The Defense Ministry’s Directorate of Defense Research and Development (DDR&D), meanwhile, will establish a national centre with quantum capabilities that will work with academia, industry, and government partners to develop a quantum processor and then a complete quantum computer.

In a nutshell, quantum computers process exponentially more data than classical computers, using quantum bits, or qubits, the basic unit of quantum information. Whereas classical computers carry out logical operations based on one of two positions – 1 or 0, on or off, up or down – quantum computers can keep qubits in “superposition,” a principle of quantum mechanics where they are both simultaneously. In this state, quantum computers “can crunch through a vast number of potential outcomes simultaneously,” according to an MIT Technology Review explanation.

There is also the concept of entanglement, where pairs of qubits exist in a single quantum state. “Quantum computers harness entangled qubits in a kind of quantum daisy chain to work their magic. The machines’ ability to speed up calculations using specially designed quantum algorithms is why there’s so much buzz about their potential,” according to the magazine.

The field is relatively new and extremely complex, but experts say that quantum computing can be extremely beneficial in industries like cybersecurity, materials and pharmaceuticals, banking and finance, and advanced manufacturing.

Israel has about two dozen startups and companies currently focused on quantum technologies, including Quantum Machines, which raised US$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.

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

According to recent market projections, the global quantum computing market size was expected to have been worth US$487.4 million in 2021 and reach US$3.7 billion by 2030.

“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 in which it will decide to lead.”

Dr. Danny Gold, head of the Defense Ministry’s DDR&D, said, “Quantum computing, on all levels, is showing signs of being an important future component of the state’s security and its technological superiority.

“Starting this process in the framework of the national program constitutes a significant step towards achieving Israeli independence in this area,” he added.

This new initiative is part of the 2018 launch of Israel’s National Quantum Science and Technology Program with a budget of NIS 200 million, later expanded to NIS 1.25 billion (US$390 million). The program was initiated to facilitate relevant quantum research, develop human capital in the field, encourage industrial projects, and invite international cooperation on research and development.

Former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the time of the launch that the program would help enhance Israel’s intelligence-gathering capacity. “What we are talking about today is promoting Israel as a world leader in quantum information science,” Netanyahu said in 2018.

Times of Israel

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