By David Shaw
English NQCC (National Quantum Computing Center) has partnered with the School of Informatics in Edinburgh University to launch the first dedicated NQCC Software Lab. Following the publication of the UK’s National Quantum Strategy and the UK government’s £2.5 billion commitment to the quantum sector over the next ten years, we are now starting to get some early indications of how that money will be spent.
The importance of this alignment is that the lab’s work can be developed to support various aspects of the NQCC mission: building talent and expertise, attracting partners to the UK, as well as solving the key scientific challenges required to build a scalable quantum computer. We can expect close alignment between the existing NQCC SparQ Applications Discovery program and the laboratory’s Quantum Advantage Pathfinder (QAP) research program.
It is perhaps not surprising that the initial NQCC Software Lab should be created at the headquarters of Professor Elham Kashefi, who in November 2022 was appointed NQCC Chief Scientist. But at the Software Lab launch event, GQI saw some important indications of the direction to come:
- Quantum pioneers are increasingly looking to explicitly establish connections that will allow them to accelerate learning from conventional computer science, including software architecture and AI.
- The de facto division in the field of quantum information between ‘quantum computing’ and ‘quantum communication’ is being challenged.
- Significant effort is still needed to turn current quantum algorithmic knowledge into commercially usable applications. Launch of the NQCC Software Lab on behalf of the UK providing academic resources to help bridge this gap.
- At least in the UK, the NISQ isn’t dead. The UK program maintains a strong focus on the search for commercially useful quantum gain with medium-scale devices.
Notable speakers at the launch event included AWS (already announced as lab partner, providing $300k support through access to Amazon Bracket), IBM (already a key UK partner for AI), and EQSI (newly launched European Institute of Quantum Software). Local institutional and political support for quantum sector investments across Scotland’s central belt is already available. Edinburgh’s appeal for international collaboration and investment is obvious.
To maximize opportunities there are also challenges. The UK also benefits from other important international centers of quantum software expertise, including the ‘golden triangle’ Cambridge, Oxford, London, but also others such as Bristol. GQI believes that the NQCC’s patronage will be critical to ensuring that all of these centers can continue to thrive and ultimately become more than the sum of their parts. All want to continue to demonstrate that they are bringing real benefits to their respective local economies
The GQI Focus Report on the UK’s National Quantum Technology Program is Available here.
April 22, 2023