Today, Intel announced a 10 year collaboration with Delft University of Technology and TNO, the Dutch Organisation for Applied Research, to accelerate and enhance the advancements in quantum computing: the new type of computing which promises to revolutionize the world as we know it. For this purpose, Intel will be investing $50 million.

Quantum computing studies theoretical computation systems (quantum computers) that make direct use of quantum-mechanical phenomena to process. Quantum computers use qubits (quantum bits) instead of bits; these qubits can exist in multiple states simultaneously thanks to the effects of quantum physics, and this offers the possibility to compute different things in parallel, dramatically speeding up processing time. Quantum computers would also solve complex problems that are practically insurmountable today, including intricate simulations such as large-scale financial analysis and more effective drug development.

Photograph of a chip constructed by D-Wave Systems Inc., mounted and wire-bonded in a sample holder. The D-Wave processor is designed to use 128 superconducting logic elements that exhibit controllable and tunable coupling to perform operations. Image via Wikipedia.

We wrote about quantum computers in the past – Intel are in no way the pioneers of the technology. IBM has been involved for years in research, UCSB and Google have also been working together for quite a while, and a company called D-Wave claim they’ve already developed several quantum computers. Performant quantum computers are at least a decade away, but I’m glad to see more and more companies taking a step towards their development.

“A fully functioning quantum computer is at least a dozen years away, but the practical and theoretical research efforts we’re announcing today mark an important milestone in the journey to bring it closer to reality,” said Mike Mayberry, Intel vice president and managing director of Intel Labs.

I’m especially thrilled by partnerships between companies and universities – Intel believes that no one company or organization will be able to untangle the secrets of qubits, so they’re trying to branch out and partner.

“Expertise in specialized electronics combined with advanced physics is required to move quantum computing closer to being a reality,” said Mayberry. “While qubit development has been the focus of quantum computing research to date, low-temperature electronics will be required to connect, control and measure multiple qubits, and this is where we can contribute. Our collaboration with QuTech will explore quantum computing breakthroughs that could influence the industry overall. In the next five to 10 years, progress in quantum computing will increasingly require the combination of excellent science with high-level engineering,” said lead scientist Lieven Vandersypen from QuTech. “For the realization of complex circuits containing large numbers of quantum bits, the know-how from the semiconductor industry is essential, and QuTech is thrilled to partner with the leading semiconductor company in the world.”

It’s unclear what the state of the art is for quantum computers, as the first ones to make a breakthrough will have a huge advantage over the others. As mentioned above, D-Wave claim to have the most advanced quantum computers, but this has not yet been confirmed. In 2014, a group of researchers from ETH Zürich, USC, Google and Microsoft reported a definition of quantum speedup, and were not able to measure quantum speedup with the D-Wave Two device, but did not explicitly rule it out.