Quantum Computers in the NISQ Era – Competition or Cooperation?

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Quantum Computers have made headlines, especially since Google achieved ‘quantum supremacy’ – outperforming what is possible with conventional computation. This Falling Walls Circle Table asks what quantum computers could one day achieve, and the hurdles to reaching these goals.

Quantum Computers operate in a fundamentally different way to conventional computers. This allows them to perform certain tasks that would otherwise be impossible, from accurately simulating molecular processes to optimising complex logistics.

But today’s Quantum Computers remain relatively simple compared to the machines that could unlock such practical applications. Solving useful problems likely remains many years away, and developing algorithms that these quantum computers could run remains difficult.

Progress towards this long term goal will need collaboration, as no one country or company has the resources to develop every component. But the pay off could be substantial for all involved. As Ina Schiefer-Decker explains, “at the end, it’s not about the quantum computer. It’s about a quantum computer that solves problems that make a difference to all of us.”

Iulia is the Chief Editor of Nature Reviews Physics to which she brings together her experience as a reviews author and commissioning editor. In 2012, Iulia joined the team at Nature Physics as an Associate Editor and then Senior Editor, where she handled manuscripts in various subject areas and oversaw numerous editorial projects. Before that Iulia was a postdoctoral researcher at RIKEN Advanced Science Institute, Japan and at the University of Basel, Switzerland, where she worked on quantum simulation and the characterization of Coulomb crystals of ions. In 2008, she obtained her Ph.D. from the University of Tokyo, having studied quantum information and simulation using trapped ions.

Hartmut Neven is an Engineering Director at Google. He is the founder and manager of the Quantum Artificial Intelligence lab. The objective of the lab is to fabricate quantum processors and develop novel quantum algorithms to dramatically accelerate computational tasks for machine intelligence. Previously, Hartmut was head of the Visual Search team. His team developed the visual search service which today is used by a large number of Google products including Image Search, Google Photos, YouTube, Street View and Google Goggles. His teams won a number of competitions designed to establish the best visual recognition software for faces (FERET 1996, FRVT 2002), objects (ImageNet 2014) and text (ICDAR 2013). Hartmut was also a co-founder of project Glass and led the team that built the first prototype. Prior to joining Google, Hartmut started two computer vision companies, the second one was acquired by Google in 2006. Hartmut obtained his Ph.D. in 1996 with a thesis on “Dynamics for vision-guided autonomous mobile robots”. Then he became a research professor for computer science and theoretical neuroscience at the University of Southern California.

Prof. Dr. Tommaso Calarco has pioneered the application of quantum optimal control methods to quantum computation and to many-body quantum systems. Currently the Director of the Institute for Quantum Control of the Peter Grünberg Institute at Forschungszentrum Jülich and Professor of Quantum Information at the Institute of Theoretical Physics of the University of Cologne, Tommaso received his PhD at the University of Ferrara and started to work as a postdoc in the group of P. Zoller at the University of Innsbruck. He was appointed as a Senior Researcher at the BEC Centre in Trento in 2004 and as a Professor for Physics at the University of Ulm in 2007, where he then became Director of the Institute for Complex Quantum Systems and of the Centre for Integrated Quantum Science and Technology. He has authored in 2016 the Quantum Manifesto, which initiated the European Commission’s Quantum Flagship initiative, and is currently the Chairman of one of the Flagship’s Governing Bodies: The Quantum Community Network (QCN). In 2020, together with the QCN, he has launched an initiative towards the creation of a consortium of European quantum industries, which has been legally established in 2021 under the name of European Quantum Industry Consortium (QuIC).

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Ina Schieferdecker has been head of the Department of Research for Innovation and Digitization at the Federal Ministry of Education and Research since 01.10.2019. Previously, she was head of the Fraunhofer Institute for Open Communication Systems (FOKUS), professor at the Technical University of Berlin for Quality Engineering of Open Distributed Systems, and director of the Weizenbaum Institute for the Networked Society, the German Internet Institute.She is a member of the Academy of Engineering Sciences (acatech). She has been, among other things, a member of the Advisory Council on Global Change to the Federal Government (WBGU), the High-Tech Forum 2025 (HTF), the Sustainability 2030 Science Platform, and scientific and technical director of the Technology Foundation Berlin (TSB).

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