In July 2022, the Israel Innovation Authority announced a NIS100 million (US$29 million) budget to build a quantum computing research center led by Israeli startup Quantum Machines, which will also contribute to the development of a quantum computer.
Israel’s new quantum computing center is part of the NIS 1.25 billion (US$390 million) Israel National Quantum Initiative, launched in 2018 to facilitate relevant quantum research, develop human capital in the field, boost industrial projects and to invite international cooperation in research and development.
Israel has about two dozen startups and companies currently focused on quantum technologies, including Quantum Machines, which raised $50 million last September. Founded in 2018, the company developed a universal standard language for quantum computers and a unique platform to help them operate.
According to the Times of Israel, the Department of Defense’s Directorate of Defense Research and Development (DDR&D) will issue a separate tender to fund the development of quantum technologies for military use for an additional NIS 100 million, the innovation agency said. According to their joint announcement on Tuesday, the budget will fund two parallel paths. The Israel Innovation Authority will focus on developing infrastructure for quantum computing capabilities, which it said could involve the use of technology from abroad. Meanwhile, the Department of Defense’s Directorate of Defense Research and Development (DDR&D) will set up a national quantum capabilities center that will work with partners from academia, industry and government to develop a quantum processor and a full quantum computer.
Tech giants like Google, Microsoft, IBM and Intel are all striving to make quantum computing more accessible and building their systems. Countries like China, the US, Germany, India and Japan are investing millions in developing their quantum capabilities.
According to the latest market forecasts, the global quantum computing market size is projected to be US$487.4 million in 2021 and reach US$3.7 billion by 2030. Israel’s $29 million is tiny compared to the governments and tech elephants mentioned above.
These government-funded initiatives to gain dominance in critical technology remind me of Japan’s fifth generation that never really achieved their goals.
Itamar Sivan, co-founder and CEO of Quantum Machines, said in a company statement that the goal of the project is “to provide Israeli companies with access to the most advanced quantum technologies and services so that they can develop deep quantum expertise in industry and academia. This expertise will enable Israeli companies from different sectors and industries to take a leading global position.”
Founded in 2018, Quantum Machines has developed a hardware and software solution – Quantum Orchestration Platform (QOP) – for running quantum systems to facilitate research and enable future breakthroughs. The startup also developed QUA, a universal standard language for quantum computers that will allow researchers and scientists to write programs for different quantum computers with a unified code. Quantum Machines, together with a consortium of Israeli and international quantum technology companies, will build a quantum computer at the center to be made available to commercial and research communities.
Israel’s $29 million is tiny compared to the governments and tech elephants mentioned above. According to recent market forecasts, the global quantum computing market is projected to grow from approximately $470 million in 2021 to approximately $1.765 billion in 2026.
Quantum Machines – an ambitious Israeli startup
Quantum Machines is an exciting company. They don’t own their own quantum computer and their products are somewhat unique. While most quantum computers stand as objects for experiments by scientists in labs, Sivan explained something I didn’t know. According to Sivan, a quantum computer requires three elements: a quantum computer and an orchestration platform of (conventional) hardware and software. There is no software in a quantum computer. The platform manages the progress of its algorithm mainly through laser beam pulses. The logic required for the operation of the quantum computer resides in and is controlled by the orchestration platform.
The key difference between Google’s strategy and Quantum Machines’ is that Google sees the current NISQ state of affairs as a testing ground for finding algorithms and applications for future development. At the same time, Sivan and his company produced an orchestration platform to bring the current technology into play. Its platform is independent of quantum computers – it can work with any of them. Sivan believes that focusing solely on the number of qubits is only part of the equation.
The center will provide access to research and development on three quantum processing technologies — superconducting qubits, cold ions and optical computing — and provide services to Israel’s quantum computing community, the Israel Innovation Authority said on Sunday. According to the Times of Israel:
Ami Appelbaum, chairman of the Israel Innovation Authority, said the new center “is the answer to an existing strategic market failure and is part of the agency’s policy to allow the industry to maintain its leadership position at the forefront of breakthrough and disruptive technologies.”
“Quantum computing is a technology that Israeli industry cannot ignore,” Dror Bin, CEO of the Israel Innovation Authority, said in a statement on Tuesday. “Industry needs to develop knowledge and access to an infrastructure where it can develop growth drivers for activities it will choose to lead.”
I have always believed that actions speak louder than words. While Google thinks long-term, Quantum Machines provides the platform to see how far we can go with current technology. As I wrote in The Unpredictable Rise of Quantum Computing – have recent breakthroughs sped up the timeline?
Google suggests that the truly unsolved problems in fields like optimization, materials science, chemistry, drug discovery, finance, and electronics will require machines with thousands of qubits, and even envision a million on a planar array etched in aluminum. Big problems need to be solved, such as noise reduction, coherence, and lifetime (a qubit holds its position for a tiny amount of time).
Google’s tactics are well known. It gets better every time you use TensorFlow. Every time you play with their autonomous car, it gets better. Their collaborations with a dozen technologically advanced companies improve their quantum technology.