Saturday, July 13, 2024

Forget AI – quantum computing is the disruptive tech that will really shape Ireland’s future

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Global government interest in quantum computing is surging. Its economic impact is forecast to surpass all technology breakthroughs of the past century, including artificial intelligence. Nations that lead in the quantum computing race will gain significant strategic and economic advantages. The choices made by countries in the coming years will shape the future of all transformative technologies.

Recognising the importance of preparing Ireland for the quantum era, the Government in November published the country’s first national strategy for quantum technologies, aptly named Quantum 2030. Launched by Simon Harris just before he became Taoiseach, the strategy is designed to set out a path for Ireland to be an internationally competitive hub for quantum technologies by 2030.

The Government deserves recognition for understanding the strategic implications of quantum and acting decisively with its strategy. By taking these vital steps now, Ireland is positioning itself to be at the forefront of this technological revolution, ensuring a future where it can reap the economic and technological benefits of being a global leader in the next great tech race.

The importance of realising this opportunity cannot be overstated in the case of Ireland. Quantum has already demonstrated how the technology areas where Ireland is currently a global leader will accelerate beyond any rate of growth seen under conventional computing. Pharmaceutical companies have deployed quantum to prototype new drug pathways and are looking for quantum capabilities. For example, simulating a new cancer drug compound on high-performance computers currently takes months and often years. Quantum computing will reduce this to minutes. The impact is almost unimaginable.

Furthermore, global financial services companies, many of whom call Ireland home, are investing significantly and looking to quantum to improve their optimisation algorithms for applications such as asset and risk management.

Quantum computing not only represents a leap in computational power but also offers significant electricity-saving capabilities, which is particularly relevant for Ireland. Traditional data centres consume vast amounts of energy, leading to both operational costs and negative environmental impact. Due to the exponential nature of the technology, quantum computing will significantly reduce the overall energy consumption needed for these tasks. This efficiency can result in substantial cost savings and a smaller carbon footprint for active and future processing data centres in Ireland. By investing in quantum technologies, Ireland can enhance the sustainability of its technological infrastructure, aligning with global environmental goals while also maintaining its position as a leader in the tech industry.

Globally, the quantum race is well under way. The United States, China, South Korea, India, Australia and the UK are already pouring billions into quantum technology, initially for security of supply of the technology. In the EU, Germany and France are investing billions, while the Netherlands, Denmark and Italy are investing hundreds of millions, according to the latest data compiled by the Quantum Insider’s Quantum Data Intelligence Platform.

Some EU governments are already procuring sovereign quantum computers, kick-starting national quantum ecosystems and investing significant funds directly into quantum computing companies. They understand that the future will be shaped by this technology. Almost all governments with active quantum technology initiatives have developed formal, co-ordinated policy approaches – this includes Ireland.

Quantum computing is not just an incremental improvement over classical computing. It represents a paradigm shift in our ability to process information and solve complex problems far beyond our classical reach today with traditional computers. It is an area of computer science that uses the principles of quantum theory, which explains the behaviour of energy and material on the atomic and subatomic levels. In certain areas, quantum computers can process information 100 million times faster than a classical computer.

Qubits are the building blocks of quantum computers, and have a capability to perform computation tasks at exponential speeds that vastly outperform classical computers for key tasks.

Unlike a classical bit, in traditional computers, which can only exist in a state of 0 or 1, a qubit can exist in a superposition of both states simultaneously. This means it can be 0, 1, or any combination of both at the same time. The ability to cost-efficiently scale stable qubits is the fundamental battleground in quantum computing today.

Central to the rapid global developments in quantum computing is a quantum system-on-chip (QSoC) processor, which essentially houses qubit components on a single silicon chip. These chips pave the way for widespread scalability and accessibility. Just one QSoC has the potential to be more powerful than the world’s most advanced supercomputer.

Equal1, headquartered in Dublin, is one of a handful of quantum computing companies around the world developing this integrated technology. Equal1′s own version of a QSoC, named UnityQ, has the unprecedented power to drive scientific breakthroughs in areas such as climate studies, new medicine research and artificial intelligence.

Ireland has the potential to be a big player in the quantum computing space. While the Government has made impressive strides already, quantum computing needs continued investment and strong Government support to create an ecosystem capable of competing on a global scale.

Now is the time to keep pushing. The Quantum 2030 strategy must be accelerated through all available as well as imaginative new funding channels. By doing so, we can secure Ireland’s position at the forefront of this revolution, driving economic growth, technological innovation and sustainable development for the country.

Jason Lynch is CEO of Equal1

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