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Quantum computing ambition: Japan aims for 10m users by 2030

  • April 13, 2022
  • , Nikkei Asia , 8:56 a.m.
  • English Press

First homegrown machine to go online in a year under Tokyo’s strategy

 

AKIRA OIKAWA and MAO KAWANO, Nikkei staff writers

 

 

TOKYO — Japan plans to bring into service its first homegrown quantum computer by the end of March next year and have 10 million people using the technology by 2030.

 

Under a strategy unveiled Tuesday, the government sees wide-spread adoption of the technology by the private sector as key to keeping up with the fierce global race for technological dominance.

 

Quantum computers, which have processing capabilities that outstrip those of supercomputers, are used in a variety of applications such as the development of drugs, new materials, artificial intelligence and next-generation communications.

 

Quantum cryptographic communications are expected to make eavesdropping virtually impossible. The government seeks to encourage companies to exploit this technology for new services and products.

 

The plan will be included in Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s signature “new capitalism” action plan, as well as in the government’s annual basic economic policy framework.

 

The first homegrown machine will mark the first step in the ambitious plan. The government-backed Riken institute is leading development efforts. The goal is to have equipment ready for use by the end of the current fiscal year in March 2023, according to the Cabinet Office.

 

The draft strategy sets a goal of 10 million quantum technology users by the year 2030. The number, based on how the internet became mainstream, is considered the threshold before the amount of users begins to explode.

 

To explore industrial applications, the government will add two new research sites to bring the total locations to 10.

 

One of the two will be housed at Tohoku University in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture, on the northeastern coast of Japan. It will train personnel and support research and development. The other new site, at Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University, will serve as a hub for advancing joint research by global scientists.

 

Training workers versed in using quantum computing for business applications will be necessary for promoting wide use by corporations. The draft strategy envisions support for quantum technology startups through a state-owned fund.

 

But government-led efforts have their limitations. To catalyze the spread of the new technology, active investment by the business community will be essential.

 

Google parent Alphabet is reportedly spending billions of dollars on quantum computing. China greenlit work on a national research facility at a cost estimated at over $10 billion.

 

In the U.S., quantum computing companies are listing in the stock market. Last year, hardware development startup IonQ went public on the New York Stock Exchange through a SPAC deal. Last month, Rigetti Computing floated on Nasdaq, taking the blank-check company route as well.

 

Household names such as Toyota Motor, Hitachi and NTT joined the Quantum Strategic industry Alliance for Revolution, or Q-STAR, which was launched last year. The organization is exploring new applications for the technology.

 

The strategy deems quantum computing will be at the heart of future cross-border competition for hegemony. Japan looks to boost its competitive advantage on the international stage along with its economic security. Success will depend on the participation by the private sector.

 

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