India to invest $1 billion in quantum computing

India is investing $1 billion over the next five years in various programs to enhance its capabilities in quantum information and meteorology, quantum materials and applications, and quantum communications.

It is also planning to develop a quantum computer with around 50 qubits by 2026, joining a growing number of countries like Australia and Israel looking to drive wider adoption of the nascent technology.

India, for its part, expects enterprise adoption of quantum technology to grow from less than 1% in 2022 to 35-45% by 2030. The number of startups in the country with commercial quantum applications will also increase from 14 to 15 today. to 400 to 500 over the next decade.

Quantum applications would have the most significant impact in defense, manufacturing, banking and high-tech areas, with defense and manufacturing accounting for more than a third of India’s quantum market, according to Swapnil Bhatnagar, senior research director at Avasant, a management consultancy that co-authored a report on the Indian quantum industry with the National Association of Software and Services Companies (Nasscom).

“India’s quantum computing push is unique in the world, especially with strong moves from government agencies and a robust and versatile startup ecosystem that is looking at different facets, along with parallel work from service providers and the academy,” said Bhatnagar.

“The Indian ecosystem is expanding and it is expected to accelerate at a tremendous rate in the next 10 years. We are on our way to the next big thing and the ecosystem is getting ready,” he added.

During a virtual panel discussion hosted by Nasscom last week, Achyuta Ghosh, head of research at Nasscom, noted that the Indian government has been at the forefront of quantum innovation, partnering with leading research groups and universities.

India’s tech community, which is growing alongside its global peers, also has a crucial role to play in translating quantum research into business use cases.

To that end, they will need to tailor quantum technology to solve specific problems rather than take a general-purpose approach, said Rohini Srivathsa, Microsoft India’s national technology officer. “Although the general evolution of quantum computing takes time, there is a lot of algorithmic work that can start today for application-specific models,” he added.

Manojkumar Parmar, deputy technical general manager at Bosch India, agreed, noting that instead of building a general-purpose quantum computer, organizations can build software or applications. “The stack is very wide, and the whole chain will eventually matter, but choose what you want to start with,” he said.

But Sunil Gupta, co-founder and CEO of QuNu Labs, a quantum cryptography company, identified a challenge that could stand in the way of Indian companies looking to enter the field.

“In quantum computing, if you want a successful company, you need two things: science proof (where India hasn’t traditionally been good) and technology proof (India hasn’t been great at deep tech products).

“Some venture capitalists see this as a lightning bolt unless those two areas get done right. Find a good angel investor with patience and a long-term horizon, and everything will fall into place,” he said.

Building and retaining a skilled workforce is also critical to realizing India’s quantum ambitions. The country plans to train some 25,000 workers in quantum technology in the next five to seven years, with the support of technology companies and research groups that have various talent programs underway.

IBM, for example, has partnered with 11 top-tier academic institutions in India to provide access to IBM Quantum Systems, quantum learning resources, and quantum tools in the cloud for educational and research purposes. About 100 to 150 students will benefit each year.

Other leading research groups, such as the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research and the Thermodynamics, Control and Quantum Information Group at the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, also offer various summer projects and training opportunities for graduate and postgraduate students and researchers.

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