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Online conference to promote US-Taiwan industry-academia cooperation in quantum computing

Online conference to promote US-Taiwan industry-academia cooperation in quantum computing
2021-07-12

(Provided by Department of Physics & Dr. Jen-Hao Yeh from Rigetti Computing) Under the guidance of the Science and Technology Division of Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the United States, the Chinese-American Professionals Association (CAPA) of Metropolitan Washington, D. C., organized the Conference on Industry-Academia Collaboration in Quantum Computing, inviting 5 experts: Professor Kuei-Lin Chiu of National Sun Yat-sen University, Professor Ching-Ray Chang of National Taiwan University (NTU), Director of Hon Hai (Foxconn) Quantum Computing Research Center Dr. Min-Hsiu Hsieh, and Dr. Jeng-Bang Yau and Dr. Wen-Sen Lu of IBM, USA. Two representatives of the organizer participated in the Conference: Dr. Jen-Hao Yeh, the former president of CAPA, working for Rigetti Computing, a US-based company developing circuits for quantum computers, and Professor Emery Jou of Ming Chuan University.

Professor Kuei-Lin Chiu gave a talk on the research on topological quantum materials. Superconducting circuits and ion traps are the most favored in the current mainstream quantum computer platforms. Google and IBM try their luck with superconducting circuit technologies and the representative ion trap technology IonQ has reached a high value in a recent fundraising. However, there is a number of challenges awaiting a solution. Superconducting quantum computers suffer from defects and environmental noise that shorten the lifetime of the quantum bit state, making long and complex operations impossible to perform. Professor Chiu said that the topological properties of topological quantum computers can be used to solve the problem of weak quantum bit state at the hardware level. However, topological quantum bits are still in an initial stage of research, comparing to other platforms to achieve quantum computers. If these materials are successful, it may be like the transistors replacing vacuum tubes in the history of traditional computer development – an innovation that surpassed all other methods.

Director of the IBM Q Hub at NTU, Professor Ching-Ray Chang, introduced the current state of quantum computer development in Taiwan. The academic research in Taiwan is flourishing: at present, professors conduct related research in fields related to mainstream of quantum computer platforms, including superconducting qubits, semiconducting spin qubits, photon qubits, and topological qubits. However, the Taiwanese industry is still conservative regarding investing money. Fortunately, the government is planning to invest NT$8 billion over five years to promote the new quantum era in Taiwan. The academia is also actively cooperating with foreign companies, such as IBM Q Hub at NTU, and the quantum annealing technology alliance between several universities and Fujitsu. In his concluding remarks, Professor Chang said that quantum computers are a trend of the future and called on Taiwanese not to fall behind in the global quantum race.

Director of Hon Hai (Foxconn) Quantum Computing Research Center Dr. Min-Hsiu Hsieh shared the research on quantum neural networks conducted by his team during the Conference. Neural networks in traditional computers, commonly known as “artificial intelligence”, have proven their astonishing possibilities in a variety of practical applications. Quantum neural networks combine the algorithms of quantum computers and artificial intelligence to: enhance quantum computers with artificial intelligence, use quantum algorithms to solve the problems of traditional computers and use quantum computers to simulate quantum mechanics computation. Theoretical research in this area has great potential and the funding required is not as intimidating as for hardware research, making it a good entry point for the industry in Taiwan.

The two speakers from the US were both associated with IBM. One of them, Dr. Jeng-Bang Yau introduced the development of quantum computers in the US using IBM as an example. The global investment in quantum computers in 2020 is estimated to reach US$ 22 billion, and the US government and industry are actively investing in it, considering it an important national competitive strength. IBM started investing in related research very early and has become a leader in superconducting quantum computer technology. The current 65-qubit quantum computer available on its cloud is one of the most powerful quantum computers in the world. The next-generation 127-qubit computer is already under development, and IBM plans to achieve the goal of a quantum computer exceeding 1,000 qubits in 2023.

Dr. Wen-Sen Lu, from IBM too, changed his perspective to introduce the cultivation of professionals in quantum technology. Dr. Lu, who just received his PhD degree, represented the new generation during the Conference; he is also a member of IBM Qiskit promotion program. Qiskit is an open-source framework for quantum computing developed by IBM that allows users around the world develop quantum programs on IBM’s cloud. In fact, industry leaders, such as Google, are launching their own quantum programming languages to cultivate future professionals of quantum technology and strengthen their own influence in the industry.

US-Taiwan cooperation was the theme of the Conference. Besides their field of expertise, in the second part of the event – the Q&A session, several speakers discussed the possible models of Taiwan-US cooperation and Taiwan’s advantages and weaknesses in the quantum field and shared their suggestions.

In his speech, Professor Ching-Ray Chang suggested that universities establish quantum science and technology institutes and that the Ministry of Education design quantum education curriculum starting from high school. Looking back at Taiwan's past economic miracles, the textile machinery industry was supported by the College of Engineering, and the computer industry – by the College of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. Now, in the 21st century, in the era of quantum computer race, Taiwan will also need centers of quantum science and technology to train the top soldiers of the industry. Professor Chiu also mentioned that from when he returned to Taiwan to teach, he has seen a very close collaboration between the academic community in Taiwan and quantum computing teams that were willing to share resources. On this basis, he suggested that the government should give incentives to help Taiwan teams connect with the world, for example, through projects by the Ministry of Science and Technology to promote the Taiwan-US cooperation. Dr. Lu recalled his experience organizing Quantum Hackathon and suggested that similar education events can let people whose profession is not related to quantum technology learn and join the quantum force. During the discussion session, Dr. Hu, Chairman of UMC, also predicted that Taiwan's excellent and abundant scientific talents will be a major advantage in the quantum industry competition.

The weekend Conference on Industry-Academia Collaboration in Quantum Computing, attended by five experts, attracted over 100 professionals from Taiwan and the United States, demonstrating both sides’ expectations for the development of quantum computing and enthusiasm for collaboration. Unfortunately, due to the epidemic, the Conference could only be organized online. Fortunately, the enthusiastic interaction during the meeting foreshadowed more opportunities for US-Taiwan cooperation, mutual visits, and closer exchange of talents.

(Edited by Public Affairs Division)
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