sweden joins the international race to build a quantum computer

As the “New Space Race” Heats Up, Sweden Joins the Pack in Pursuit of Its Own Quantum Computer

The Swedes are going big, throwing 1 billion Swedish Krona (roughly $118 million or 100 million euro) into a research initiative with the goal of developing a robust quantum computer. While this is a sizable investment, it pales in comparison to the $10 billion dollar investment China recently made in its National Laboratory for Quantum Information Sciences.

Sweden’s program is called the Wallenberg Centre for Quantum Technology.  The Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation generously donated roughly 60% of the funding. Private industry, Chalmers University, and other universities will supply the rest of the funds. (I’ll be watching closely for the level of industry participation, since that seemed to be a challenge in Europe earlier this year.) The centre launches in January, 2018. They are recruiting around 40 researchers for the 10-year effort.

Never Tell Me the Odds

Program Director Per Delsing said the goal is to create “a functioning quantum computer with at least a hundred qubits.”  Delsing is a Professor of Quantum Device Physics at Chalmers University of Technology. He further explained, “Such a computer has far greater computing power than the best supercomputers of today and can be used, for example, to solve optimization problems, advanced machine learning, and heavy calculations of the properties of molecules.”  Like others (e.g., Google, IBM), the Wallenberg Centre will build its quantum computer using superconducting circuits.

Though their investment is modest, I’m not counting the Swedes out in the race to build a robust quantum computer.  Researchers at Chalmers have been studying superconducting qubits for two decades. They claim to be among the first in the world to create one.  In this race, dollars matter.  But mental horsepower matters, too.  If the Swedes can recruit the best brains, they’ll be in the hunt.  I’ll keep an eye out for new developments from this initiative and keep you posted.