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MUMBAI: International Business Machines (IBM) has partnered with Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, (IIT-Madras), to advance quantum co­mputing skill development and research in India.

With this partnership, IIT Madras joins over 180 members of the IBM Quantum Network globally. IIT Madras also becomes the “first Indian institution” to join the global community of Fortune 500 companies, start-ups, academic institutions, and research labs working with IBM Quantum technology to advance ‎quantum computing and explore business use cases.

“The collaboration will open new avenues to work with industry partners to accelerate research, make quantum real in areas such as life-saving drugs, improvements in supply chains, logistics and the modelling of financial data,” said Sandip Patel, managing director, IBM India, at a recent press event in Mumbai.

He added that the joint research on quantum computing will help a ‎variety of industries and disciplines, including finance, energy, chemistry, materials science, ‎optimization, machine learning and even space research.

The partnership helps IIT Madras to get cloud-based access to IBM’s advanced quantum computing systems. IIT Madras’ Centre for Quantum Information, Communication and Computing (CQuICC) will use IBM Quantum services alongside the open-source Qiskit framework to explore areas such as quantum algorithms, quantum machine learning, quantum error correction, quantum tomography, and quantum chemistry, in order to advance and grow the quantum computing ecosystem in the country.

Qiskit Runtime is a piece of software that runs on IBM Cloud and uses classical computers to optimise workloads and then efficiently execute them on quantum systems on a large scale.

Prabha Mandayam, associate professor, department of Physics, IIT Madras said that becoming a part of the IBM Quantum Network will provide the institute’s faculty direct access to state-of-the-art quantum hardware and software. “It enables us to use our interdisciplinary expertise to tackle some of the challenging problems in the domain of quantum computing today. In short, it gives us a unique opportunity to play an active and direct role in this quantum revolution of our times,” she said.

IBM and IIT Madras have a long association in education and research areas like Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. In August last year, IBM Quantum and IIT Madras also jointly offered a course on quantum computing on their online platform to over 10,000 participants.

Speaking about India’s position in the overall quantum computing market, Amith Singhee, director, IBM research India and chief technology officer (CTO), IBM India and South Asia, told Mint, “India is poised to play a pivotal role in the quantum technology revolution globally.”

“We are also developing the talent and skills landscape and building an ecosystem with industry, business, academia and government to help solve some of the most pressing challenges,” he said.

IBM has been one of the pioneers in quantum computing and launched its first quantum system with 20 qubits for commercial use in 2019. Qubit or quantum bit is the basic unit of quantum information. Higher qubits refer to more computing power, which translates into more powerful quantum computers.

In November, last year, IBM had released quantum processors with up to 127 qubits. IBM had earlier said that it will launch a quantum computer with a 4,000-qubit processor by 2025 and put quantum computing to practical use.

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By Ajay Kumar Verma

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