IBM has just announced a partnership with the Government of Quebec to create the Quebec-IBM Discovery Accelerator in Bromont, Quebec. The accelerator will focus on the use of quantum computing, artificial intelligence (AI), and high performance computing (HPC) to develop new projects, business/scientific/academic collaborations, and skills-building initiatives in research areas including energy, life sciences (genomics and drug discovery), development of new materials and sustainability. This is the fourth such center that IBM has announced. The three previously announced partnerships are with the Cleveland Clinic, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and the UK Council for Science and Technology Facilities Hartree Center.
IBM’s formal mission statement for these Discovery Accelerators is:
“Accelerate scientific discovery and social impact with a convergence of AI, quantum and hybrid cloud into a discovery community with research, academic, industrial, emerging and government organizations working together.”
Additionally, the company has developed individual mission statements for each of the four Discovery Accelerators:
· Bromont: Converges quantum computing with AI, HPC and the cloud to drive scientific discovery in health and climate and grow a new ecosystem for broad economic impact.
· Cleveland Clinic: Apply AI, quantum computing, HPC and hybrid cloud to pathogen research and translation to practice and build the future healthcare technology workforce.
· University of Illinois Urbana-Champagne: Advancing scientific and technological foundations to accelerate scientific discovery with hybrid cloud, quantum computing, and AI with a focus on new materials.
· Hartree Center – Apply AI, quantum and HPC to accelerate discovery, innovation, solution creation and skills development with industry, focusing on accelerated modeling and simulation.
AI and HPC are already being used individually successfully to tackle some of society’s toughest problems, and researchers want to do the same with quantum computing. However, from IBM’s perspective, the wheel of discovery based on the scientific method, which includes hypothesis formulation, hypothesis testing through experimental design, analysis of experimental results, and then possible restatement of the hypothesis original, followed by more experiments, takes too long. .
It may take a decade or two of hard work and billions of dollars spent on research to spin this wheel on tough problems, and there’s no guarantee that the hard work or money spent will produce a useful result. These iterations simply take too long and cost too much, especially when it comes to solving life-or-death problems.
IBM seems impatiently determined to get this wheel spinning faster, no doubt because there are huge social benefits and huge profits to be had for those who learn how to do it. IBM plans to find ways to accelerate the scientific method by seeding research centers like the yet-to-be-built Quebec-IBM Discovery Accelerator to help researchers find and exploit the synergy between these three radically different data processing tools. : quantum computing, AI and HPC.
The announced Discovery Accelerator partnership supports the Quebec Innovation Zones initiative, which the Government of Quebec announced on February 3, the same day that IBM made its partnership announcement. IBM already has a research facility in Bromont, and the company plans to install one of its production Quantum System One quantum computers at this existing facility for use by the Government of Quebec and its partners. Installation will take place over the next year. The cryogenics required by IBM’s approach to quantum computing means these beasts will likely be restricted to large data centers and other facilities like IBM’s Bromont research center for quite some time.
Not coincidentally, IBM announced that it had successfully completed initial development of the 127-qubit (quantum bit) Eagle quantum computer at its Quantum Summit last November. When asked if the quantum computer to be installed at IBM’s Bromont research facility and used for the announced Discovery Accelerator would be of the 127-qubit type, Dr. Anthony J. Annunziata, platform and ecosystem director IBM’s Accelerated Discovery played its cards somewhat close to his chest, replying that the 127-qubit computer was currently the most advanced quantum computer that IBM had, and therefore this was likely to be the computer installed at the facility. Bromont Research. We’ll take that as a qualified “Yes.”
IBM has installed approximately 50 of various generations of quantum computer design in research facilities around the world. According to Steve Leibson, Principal Analyst at TIRIAS Research, “These quantum computing facilities are IBM’s forward-thinking plan to nurture an army of people versed in quantum computer programming, which is currently an arcane art.”
IBM currently supports two types of quantum programming: using a graphical drag-and-drop approach and through the Python programming language. In both cases, people and programs do not directly interact with the quantum computer. A more mundane digital computer is needed to transform a quantum program into the steps required for the quantum computer to execute the program. “In this way,” Leibson said, “IBM’s quantum computer, indeed all quantum computers to date, mimic the workings of early supercomputers, which almost universally needed a more familiar and mundane digital computer to serve as an intermediary and language translator between the programmer and the user. supercomputer.”
IBM’s main quantum development tool is called Qiskit, an open source SDK for working with quantum computers. All of IBM’s quantum computers to date can be programmed with Qiskit, and the company has developed a substantial number of quantum computing courses to train people in its use, just as the company once had to train people. to program the novel digital computers of the past. mid 20th century.
Although quantum computing is by far the most exotic of the computing resources that IBM plans to make available through the Quebec-IBM Discovery Accelerator, it is by no means the only technology resource that IBM is throwing into the poutine pot. IBM is also making a range of IBM-developed AI models available to the Discovery Accelerator to explore applications such as drug discovery. Discovery Accelerator will also leverage IBM’s HPC technologies to facilitate research aimed at integrating classical, artificial intelligence and quantum technologies across the IBM hybrid cloud. The plan is to use multiple and creative fusions of these computing technologies to tackle scientific challenges that have proven quite resistant to the more mundane solution methods applied to date.
IBM is far from the only player in the quantum computing race and there are literally thousands of AI and HPC players. Therefore, success is far from guaranteed. However, IBM has certainly developed a leadership position with its 127-qubit quantum machine and the company is also no slouch when it comes to AI or HPC. Betting on IBM right now, when it’s on a roll with partnerships like this deal with the Quebec government, seems like a pretty good bet.