French startup Pasqal set to introduce first quantum computer in Saudi Arabia

Paris-based quantum computing startup Pasqal has inked a significant deal with Saudi Arabia’s oil giant Aramco, marking the installation of the kingdom’s first quantum computer. Scheduled for deployment in the latter half of 2025, Pasqal will oversee the installation, maintenance, and operation of a powerful 200-cubit quantum computer.

Georges-Olivier Reymond, CEO and co-founder of Pasqal expressed enthusiasm about the partnership, highlighting its role in advancing the commercial embrace of quantum technology within Saudi Arabia. The initiative follows Pasqal’s successful provision of quantum computers to both France and Germany. Notably, Alain Aspect, a co-founder of Pasqal, was awarded the 2022 Nobel Prize in Physics for groundbreaking experiments underpinning quantum mechanics, laying the foundation for quantum computing.

Why does it matter?

The allure of quantum computing lies in its potential to revolutionise computational capabilities, with projections suggesting that quantum computers could outpace today’s supercomputers by millions of times in certain computations. This partnership between Pasqal and Aramco signals a meaningful step towards harnessing the power of quantum technology to solve complex problems across various sectors, including energy, finance, and logistics. As the global race for quantum supremacy intensifies, collaborations like this one are pivotal in pushing the boundaries of technological innovation, promising transformative advancements with far-reaching implications for industries and societies worldwide.

Malta’s ambassador delivers insights on quantum diplomacy

In an interview given to Digital Watch Observatory, André Xuereb, Ambassador for Digital Affairs at the Office of the Permanent Secretary, Ministry for Foreign and European Affairs and Trade of Malta, provided insights into the world of quantum computing and its implications for diplomacy. Quantum computing, as described by Xuereb, harnesses the laws of quantum mechanics to tackle complex problems by exploiting the simultaneous states of quantum bits or qubits, offering unprecedented computational power.

Xuereb emphasised the transformative potential of quantum computing, particularly in areas like drug discovery and cryptography. With its ability to handle intricate molecular structures efficiently, quantum computers could revolutionise drug design and accelerate the development of new medicines. Additionally, the inherent properties of quantum computing pose challenges to traditional encryption methods, potentially compromising data security.

Addressing the emergence of quantum diplomacy, Xuereb underscored the need for international collaboration and governance frameworks to navigate the complexities of quantum technologies. Initiatives like the Open Quantum Institute in Geneva, a global platform for quantum research and development, aim to facilitate equitable access to quantum resources, bridging the gap between countries with varying technological capabilities. Meanwhile, major tech players such as Microsoft, Amazon, Google, and others, with their substantial investments in quantum technologies, are not only driving technological advancements but also shaping the diplomatic landscape by influencing policy discussions and international cooperation in this field.

Looking ahead, Xuereb advised future quantum diplomats to prioritise discussions around the implications of quantum technologies on global security and communication. With the advent of general-purpose quantum computers, the risk of cyber threats, such as the ability to break current encryption methods, and the need for secure communication channels become paramount diplomatic concerns. However, Xuereb emphasised the importance of striking a balance between leveraging quantum advancements for societal benefits and mitigating potential risks associated with their misuse, such as the potential for quantum computers to crack current encryption methods, leading to widespread data breaches and security vulnerabilities.

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.

IBM to open first European quantum data centre in Germany

IBM has unveiled its plans to establish the first quantum data center in Europe, which will be in Germany. The primary objective of this center, situated in Ehningen, is to grant access to cutting-edge quantum computing to businesses, research institutions, and governmental bodies.

Expected to be operational by 2024, the data center will house multiple IBM quantum computer systems equipped with processors boasting more than 100 qubits, aiming to empower users in the European cloud region to deploy quantum systems and process data exclusively within Europe. IBM’s Quantum Computing vice president, Jay Gambetta, stated that this is part of a broader initiative aimed at enabling European users to harness the potential of quantum computing for addressing major global challenges. I

In addition to the hardware expansion, IBM will introduce novel software, such as the “Multichannel Scheduler,” to enhance the optimization of quantum computer workflows.

This initiative also aligns with Germany’s own quantum strategy, which seeks to bolster the nation’s position in quantum technology and tackle societal issues across various domains.

US considers investment restrictions in Chinese Chips, AI, and Quantum Computing to curb national security concerns

The US Treasury is considering implementing new rules to restrict US investments and the transfer of expertise in advanced semiconductors, AI, and quantum computing to Chinese companies.

The US administration plans to ban investments in certain Chinese technology firms and increase scrutiny of others, with the goal of addressing concerns that US investors are aiding Beijing’s military advancements. The aim is to curb the flow of American capital and knowledge that could potentially benefit China’s military.

Republican Senator Bill Hagerty also raised the issue of restricting the supply of US goods to Chinese telecom company Huawei, but the Commerce Department has not yet drafted any rules in this regard. Last year, a significant number of export license applications were denied or returned without action as part of efforts to prevent sales that could contribute to Beijing’s military buildup.

China telecom makes quantum leap with new quantum technology group

China Telecom has invested 3 billion yuan ($434 million) in establishing the China Telecom Quantum Information Technology Group. The newly formed entity, headquartered in Anhui province, is dedicated to advancing quantum technology, expediting the development of quantum products, and fostering the industry on a national scale. China Telecom’s formation of the group aligns with General Secretary Xi Jinping’s directives on quantum technology and underscores China’s ambition to emerge as a frontrunner in the worldwide race for quantum computing supremacy.

In a similar development, China Mobile, another major Chinese telecommunications company, had previously partnered with Origin Quantum, a Chinese startup, to explore the utilisation of quantum computing in addressing computational bottlenecks in 5G and 6G technologies.

China unveils cutting-edge quantum computing cloud platform

China has introduced a state-of-the-art quantum computing cloud platform that enables researchers to undertake complex computational tasks while allowing the public to experience the capabilities of quantum computing. The platform utilises three superconducting quantum chips with different qubit configurations. It has been available for testing since November and has attracted more than 2,000 users from both domestic and international backgrounds. Numerous research teams have already leveraged this platform to remotely access quantum chips for their scientific research and software development projects.

Developed collaboratively by the Beijing Academy of Quantum Information Sciences, the Institute of Physics under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and Tsinghua University, the platform was unveiled at the 2023 Zhongguancun Forum held in Beijing. Fan Heng, a researcher at the Institute of Physics, stressed the significance of constructing the quantum computing ecosystem on a cloud platform, underscoring the need for the swift development of such platforms.

US Science Envoy explores quantum technology collaboration in Singapore

Dr Prineha Narang, the US science envoy, travelled to Singapore to explore opportunities for collaboration in the field of quantum technology. Being the first science envoy appointed specifically for quantum science and technology, Dr Narang aims to inform the US Department of State and the scientific community about potential avenues for cooperation in science and technology.

During her visit, she engaged with counterparts from Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology and Research, the National University of Singapore, and Nanyang Technological University, with the objective of fostering research partnerships between institutions and start-ups in both countries.

Singapore has been actively investing in quantum computing initiatives and recently established the National Quantum Computing Hub, which facilitates direct access and testing of quantum computers for government agencies and companies. Dr Narang stressed the significance of developing a diverse quantum workforce and promoting early exposure to quantum concepts across various academic disciplines.

China’s internet watchdog raises concerns over advanced technologies and calls for ethical regulations

The governance and regulatory challenges associated with advanced technologies, including generative artificial intelligence (AI), have raised concerns for China’s Cyberspace Administration (CAC). In their 2022 Digital China Development Report, the CAC emphasises ethical concerns such as privacy breaches and the potential for misusing emerging technologies such as generative AI, Web3, and quantum computing.

The report also highlights concerns regarding the ideological impact resulting from unregulated adoption of these innovations. It specifically mentions the risk of ‘value penetration,’ a term used by authorities to describe ideological change or influence caused by Western states. Last month, the CAC already introduced a set of draft regulations that mandate companies offering generative AI services in China to implement measures to prevent the dissemination of discriminatory content, disinformation, and any content that could lead to privacy breaches or infringement of intellectual property. According to the report, these enterprises should adhere to Chinese socialist values and refrain from producing content that implies destabilisation of the regime or disrupts economic or social order.

Although the CAC report highlights Beijing’s emphasis on risk mitigation within its innovation ecosystem, it also acknowledges the potential advantages of these new technologies and that the country should take advantage of them.

IBM and Google invest $150 Million in US-Japan Quantum Computing Initiative

IBM and Google have jointly pledged $150 million towards a quantum computing initiative in the United States and Japan. This initiative aims to accelerate the development of quantum technologies, particularly in the face of growing competition from China. The funding will support research collaborations, educational programs, and infrastructure improvements to foster advancements in quantum computing. The move reflects the increasing importance of quantum technology in various fields and highlights the efforts of these companies to maintain their global leadership in the quantum computing race.

According to the WSJ, the deal will be announced at the Hiroshima G-7 summit and seeks to maintain the American lead in critical technology.