IBM is to install its first quantum computer system in Germany as part of a collaboration agreement with Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft to provide European companies and research institutions with access to the technology and explore application scenarios. It will also allow development of application-oriented quantum computing strategies under complete data sovereignty of European law.

As part of the collaboration, an IBM Q System One quantum computer will be installed in an IBM computer center near Stuttgart. The system is scheduled to go into operation in early 2021 and will be the first of its kind in Europe. Fraunhofer plans to bring together established partners from research and industry under the umbrella of a research infrastructure of Fraunhofer institutes, which will work together in a centrally coordinated national Fraunhofer competence network for quantum computing. The network will initially be represented by competence centers in six German states – Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria, Rhineland-Palatinate, Berlin, Hesse and North Rhine-Westphalia. Currently, more than ten Fraunhofer Institutes are already working on various fields of quantum technology.

Under this nationwide Fraunhofer competence network, companies and research institutions will be able to access IBM quantum computers both in Germany and the US. This will start from as early as next month (April 1st, 2020), when quantum computers in the US-based IBM Quantum Computation Center will be available; there are currently 15 systems at this center located in the US state of New York. Under the terms of the agreement, IBM will offer Fraunhofer technical support and assistance in using the IBM quantum systems.

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An IBM Q System One quantum computer will be installed in an IBM computer center near Stuttgart in early 2021 (Image: IBM)

The signing of the cooperation follows the joint announcement in September 2019 of an initiative in applied quantum computing for Germany’s research institutions and companies. The cooperation partners support the German Federal Government’s goal of investing almost one billion euros over the next two years in order to develop quantum technology from basic research to marketable applications. This is to be made possible by the development of a research infrastructure that strategically promotes the further development and dissemination of quantum computing in Germany. The participating federal states Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria contribute the largest financial share.

“A central research question is which concrete application scenarios are suitable for calculation with a quantum computer, how algorithms for this can be developed and translated into simple applications. Quantum computing has the potential to analyze the complex systems in business and industry, to unravel molecular and chemical interactions, to solve complicated optimization problems and to make artificial intelligence significantly more powerful,” explains Fraunhofer president Professor Reimund Neugebauer. “Such advances could open the door to new scientific knowledge and enormous improvements, for example in supply chains, logistics and the modelling of financial data, as well as problems from the classical engineering sciences.”

IBM Europe’s senior vice president & chairman, Martin Jetter, added, “This agreement opens up another opportunity for Europe to become a pioneer in the further development of a promising technology with Germany playing a leading role as we grow the scientific, academic, public and private ecosystem which seeks to solve complex problems, such as climate change and healthcare issues. A memorable milestone for our region.” As expected, several other political figures added to this sentiment of German and European pride, indicating that the installation of the first physical quantum computer on European soil “sends out a strong signal in support of Germany as a research location,” and that it “marks an important step toward the further establishment of an internationally recognizable ecosystem in the field of quantum technology.”

They hope that Germany in general, and Baden-Württemberg in particular, will become the center of quantum technology in Europe. By providing 40 million euros in funding, the state government believes it can help build up the necessary expertise in industry. It will be looking to provide both industry and science with research and experimental opportunities in the fields of transportation, machine tools, communications, health care, as well as the finance and energy industries.

The Bavarian state minister of economic affairs, Hubert Aiwanger, commented, “Quantum computing has enormous potential in many fields of application, including logistics, materials research, artificial intelligence and IT security. Bavaria will therefore support this initiative of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft with a high-performance competence center, to be led by Fraunhofer Institute for Applied and Integrated Security AISEC in Garching. One area of focus will be the interaction between quantum computing and IT security. We want to push ahead with the development of quantum computing as a new key technology for Bavarian companies.”

IBM System Q One is optimized to ensure the quality, stability, reliability and reproducibility of multi-qubit applications. In 2016, IBM was the first company to make universal quantum computers accessible via the cloud. An active community of more than 200,000 users have run hundreds of billions of executions on real IBM quantum hardware and have published more than 200 research papers based on these experiments. IBM said it is the first company to have commercial clients via the IBM Q Network, a community of more than 100 businesses, start-ups, research labs, education institutions and governments working with IBM to advance quantum computing.