Wed, Apr 11, 2018 - Page 1 News List

IBM to help Taiwan develop quantum technology

By Lin Chia-nan  /  Staff reporter

Minister of Science and Technology Chen Liang-gee explains functions and applications of quantum technology at a news conference in Taipei yesterday, as he announced his ministry’s plan for heavy investment in the field.

Photo courtesy of the Ministry of Science and Technology

Taiwan is to join the international race to develop quantum technology, with one of the field’s key players — IBM Corp — agreeing to work with Taiwanese businesses, Minister of Science and Technology Chen Liang-gee (陳良基) said yesterday.

The Ministry of Science and Technology is to seek an annual budget of NT$70 million (US$2.4 million) over three to five years for quantum technology development, Chen said at a news conference in Taipei.

While digital computing encodes data into binary digits, quantum computation uses quantum bits that can exist in superposition states and process information more efficiently, Chen said, adding that the new technology could replace conventional computers based on silicon transistors in non-linear computing.

Quantum technology development is mostly theoretical, but is expected to become widely applicable in code encryption and decryption, artificial intelligence, space technology, transportation and meteorology in the next 10 years, he said.

The technology can also be applied to analyze atomic and molecular structures, which is conducive to scientists developing new materials, the ministry’s Department of Engineering and Technologies Director-General Shawn Hsu (徐碩鴻) said.

It is likely that a scientist doing quantum research would win a Nobel prize this decade, Hsu added.

Developing quantum technology has turned into a global race.

In May 2016, the EU launched a “Quantum Manifesto,” calling on its member states to join its 1 billion euros (US$1.2 billion at the current exchange rate) “flagship-scale initiative” in quantum technology, due to begin this year.

US-funded research in the area is about US$200 million a year, while China — although its overall budget is unclear — is spending US$10 billion building its National Laboratory for Quantum Information Science, Bloomberg reported on Monday.

While Taiwan cannot compete with other nations in terms of research budget, it has the world’s largest industrial cluster of semiconductor firms, as well as a pool of technology talent, Chen said.

In addition to IBM, the ministry is seeking collaboration with Google LLC, Intel Corp and the nation’s key semiconductor suppliers, he said, while declining to name local firms that have expressed an interest in the project.

Academics and students of physics, electrical engineering and computer science are encouraged to join the initiative, Hsu said.

The ministry is to hold two seminars on quantum technology at National Cheng Kung University on Thursday next week and at National Taiwan University (NTU) on April 23, it said.

It also plans to invite US and Japanese professors to lecture on quantum technology later this year, Hsu said, adding that the lectures are likely to take place at NTU and National Tsing Hua University.

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