India and the EU collaborate on High-Performance Computing

India has initiated action on the Cooperation on High-Performance Computing pact signed with the EU in 2022, inviting proposals from researchers to utilise HPC for various critical applications. The pact, established during a virtual ceremony in November 2022, emphasised technological collaboration on Quantum and High-Performance Computing between India and the EU, focusing on advancing R&D in HPC technologies. However, progress had stalled until February 2024, when the EU activated its part of the pact, aiming to foster collaboration with India in optimising HPC applications across domains of mutual interest.

Europe’s envisioned outcomes from this collaboration include enhancing HPC applications, fostering information sharing to tackle societal challenges, facilitating researcher exchange between India and the EU, and strengthening international cooperation in HPC development. While the EU’s document lacks specifics on the path forward, India’s recent call for proposals delineates a clear roadmap. The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology seeks proposals to analyse climate change, bioinformatics, and natural hazards using HPC, alongside developing integrated early warning systems for multi-hazard scenarios. Proposals are expected to outline specific application optimisation plans, development timelines, and critical performance indicators demonstrating cooperative benefits. Accepted proposals allow access to HPC facilities in India and the EU.

India’s Supercomputing Mission has commissioned 28 supercomputers, while the EU’s High-Performance Computing Joint Undertaking operates nine machines with substantial computing power. Despite the progress, India and the EU still need to provide a timeframe for implementing approved proposals.

South Carolina’s leap into the quantum future

South Carolina has launched an ambitious initiative in quantum computing through a $15 million investment aiming to make its workforce quantum-ready. 

Senator Dick Harpootlian, a vocal quantum advocate for the state, credited with the initiative, said, ‘If we can train a generation on the skills needed, they’re going to be sought after by every entity in the world at a great salary. We can be world-renowned for what we do here. The question is, are we going to be last in the country or are we going to be the first.’ 

This move is part of a global surge in quantum computing advancements and investments, signifying a worldwide race towards unlocking the potential of this transformative technology.

The Global Quantum Computing, building a quantum economy 

According to the World Economic Forum report on quantum computing, public and private investments in the sector is totalling over $35.5 billion. This colossal investment emphasises the universal recognition of quantum computing’s potential to revolutionise industries, from cybersecurity to healthcare, finance and energy, warranting the WEF to talk about the ‘quantum economy’. South Carolina’s venture into quantum computing situates it within an international community committed to pioneering the next wave of technological innovation.

South Carolina’s Quantum Vision

Central to South Carolina’s quantum initiative is the emphasis on education and workforce development. The South Carolina Quantum Association prioritises preparing students for the increasing opportunities in quantum technologies, focusing on the critical role of human capital in sustaining technological leadership. The association will help connect students with resources to build the knowledge and skills to work on a quantum supercomputer.

According to the South Carolina Daily Gazette, the association plans to connect students and professors with companies seeking the unique advancements offered by quantum computing.

Its impact is anticipated across diverse sectors, promising enhancements in financial models, healthcare diagnostics, and sustainable energy solutions. South Carolina’s investment in quantum computing is expected to catalyze new industries and job opportunities, contributing significantly to the state’s economic growth.

Digital technologies in UN Secretary-General’s Policy Brief on a New Agenda for Peace

As part of the process leading to the Summit of the Future in 2024, the UN Secretary-General has issued a new Policy Brief – the ninth in its series – outlining proposals for a New Agenda for Peace. Not missing in the Policy Brief are references to digital technologies and the challenges they pose for peace and security. 

The document highlights the perils of weaponising new and emerging technologies, such as the proliferation of armed uncrewed aerial systems, the ease of access to powerful tools that facilitate the spread of misinformation, disinformation, and hate speech, and the misuse of digital technology by terrorist groups. 

Among the 12 sets of recommendations detailed in the Policy Brief as steps towards achieving more effective multilateral action for peace and security, one is dedicated to ‘preventing the weaponisation of emerging domains and promote responsible innovation’. Here, the Secretary-General calls for:

  • The development of governance frameworks, at the international and national levels, to minimise  harms and address the cross-cutting risks posed by converging technologies. 
  • The establishment of an independent multilateral accountability mechanism for malicious use of cyberspace by states, to reduce incentives for such conduct. Such a mechanism, the Secretary-General argues, could enhance compliance with agreed norms and principles of responsible state behaviour. 
  • The conclusion, by 2026, of a legally binding instrument to prohibit lethal autonomous weapon systems that function without human control or oversight, and which cannot be used in compliance with international humanitarian law, and to regulate all other types of autonomous weapons systems.
  • The development of frameworks to mitigate risks relating to AI-enabled systems in the peace and security domain. The Secretary-General specifically mentions the International Atomic Energy  Agency,  the International Civil Aviation Organization and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate  Change as governance approaches that member states could seek inspiration from. He also invites member states to consider the creation of a new global body to mitigate the peace and security risks of AI while harnessing its benefits to accelerate sustainable development
  • The development of norms, rules and principles around the design, development, and use of military applications of AI through a multilateral process, with the engagement of stakeholders from industry, academia, civil society and other sectors. 
  • The development of a global framework regulating and strengthening oversight mechanisms for the use of data-driven technology, including AI, for counter-terrorism purposes.
  • The development of measures to address the risks involved in biotechnology and human enhancement technologies applied in the military domain. 

US Department of Defence releases National Defence Science and Technology Strategy

The US Department of Defence (DoD) has released the National Defence Science and Technology Strategy (NDSTS) to outline science and technology priorities, goals, and investments. The NDSTS will guide the future of the defence research and engineering enterprise along three main goals: focusing on the joint mission by investing in information systems and establishing processes for rigorous, threat-informed analysis; creating and fielding capabilities at speed and scale by fostering a more vibrant defence innovation ecosystem; and ensuring the foundations for research and development. The strategy emphasises the need to develop asymmetric capabilities that will help ensure national security over the long term and leverage critical emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and quantum computing to achieve the objectives of the National Defence Strategy.

With the NDSTS the DoD seeks to ‘make carefully crafted decisions that bolster the DoD’s comparative advantages’, according to Heidi Shyu, DoD Chief Technology Officer.

New research suggests that quantum machine learning outperforms classical algorithms

A new study published by researchers at the University of British Columbia suggests that quantum machine learning algorithms can outperform classical machine learning algorithms. The researchers tested the quantum and classical algorithms on a range of tasks and found that the quantum algorithm consistently performed better than the classical algorithm in terms of accuracy and efficiency. This study shows that a quantum advantage exists for two of the most popular quantum machine learning classification models: Variational Quantum Classifiers (also known as quantum neural networks) and Quantum Kernel Support Vector Machines. But, as one of the authors notes, the key challenge now ‘is to find a real-world machine learning application that would benefit from this quantum advantage in practice’.

Japan’s first quantum computer is made available to researchers

Japan’s Riken Centre for Quantum Computing has announced that its quantum computer – the first developed in the country – is now available for researchers starting in late March 2023. Based in Wako, Saitama Prefecture, the quantum computer has 64 qubits.

In early April 2023, Riken scientists published research showing that a quantum-computational algorithm could be used to ‘efficiently and accurately calculate atomic-level interactions in complex materials’. They have developed a new protocol for quantum computers that could reproduce complex dynamics of quantum materials, thus opening the door to an ‘unprecedented level of understanding to condensed-matter physics and quantum chemistry’.

Scientists develop detector that could improve the security of data transfer in quantum computing

A team of scientists from the University of Geneva, the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Art, and ID Quantique has developed a faster single-photon detector that could improve the security of data transfer. Quantum key distribution (QKD), which enables the transmission of shared secret keys via optical fibres, is a highly secure way of protecting against data theft, but its widespread use is limited by the speed of the single-photon detectors used to receive the information. The researchers’ detector, which integrates 14 nanowires, achieved a detection rate that was 20 times faster than a single-wire device, enabling the generation of a secret key at a rate of 64 megabits per second over 10 km of fibre optic cable. This is five times the performance of current technology over this distance and could have applications in fields such as banking, healthcare, government, and the military.

Indian Railways to use AI and quantum computing for transformation plans

The Indian Railways announced plans to adopt artificial intelligence (AI) and quantum computing technology to drive rapid transformation, improve the efficiency and reliability of its operations, and enhance passenger experience.

The Railways plan to use such technologies to optimise complex logistics and transportation networks, such as those used to transport goods and raw materials. This adoption is part of a broader effort to modernise and digitise the Indian Railways and to make it more competitive and efficient.

NASA and Caltech researchers launch new quantum detector

In the USA, researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Caltech have developed a quantum detector that could improve the performance of optical communication systems by expanding the transmission distance of signals. The detector, which is based on a superconducting nanowire, can detect single photons of light with high efficiency and low noise. This makes it well-suited for use in quantum communication, where information is encoded in individual photons.

The researchers demonstrated the detector’s performance by using it to receive a laser signal transmitted over a distance of 20 km. This could enable the development of more efficient and secure communication systems and improve the performance of satellite-based instruments that rely on optical signals.

Quantum Delta NL launches €15 million fund for quantum startups in the Netherlands

Quantum Delta NL (QDNL) has launched a €15 million fund, QDNL Participations, to invest in early-stage quantum technology startups, typically leading rounds with up to €1.5 million investments.

The fund will also provide €50,000 funding for teams developing promising quantum technologies in the form of a SAFE note agreement that later convert into equity investments when the startup is ready.

In addition, Quantum Delta NL has launched an on-call support program, Infinity, designed to help Dutch university researchers navigate the university spin-out process and raise their first funding round with access to an 800+ deep tech investors network.

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