Quantum computing technologies are poised for major breakthroughs that could transform our lives, impacting areas ranging from new material discovery, to online security, to supply chain management. While there has been impressive progress in the field over the past few years, there is still a high degree of uncertainty – even amongst experts in the field – over which technologies will eventually reach full commercial maturity, and which applications will be the first to truly capitalize on quantum advantage.
British Columbia (BC) has a thriving quantum ecosystem. Two of the first quantum computing companies – D-Wave and 1QBit – were founded here, and hardware startup Photonic Inc. recently raised a significant funding round. BC is also home to three top-tier universities all with active quantum research programs, the UBC-based Stewart Blusson Quantum Matter Institute, and the recently-formed Quantum Algorithms Institute. In April 2021, the Government of Canada committed $360M in funding over 7 years to support a National Quantum Strategy, providing a basis for Canada to further strengthen its position as a global leader in quantum technology development and implementation; BC is uniquely positioned to take a leadership role in the national quantum network by leveraging its existing capabilities and influence to further develop its quantum industry over the next ten years.
Quantum BC: The Road Ahead
On Thursday, September 2, 2021, The University of British Columbia, University of Victoria and Simon Fraser University, under the banner of Quantum BC, offered a unique online Roadmapping Workshop that brought together students, faculty, and industry members across the quantum computing ecosystem in order to brainstorm the outlook for quantum technology development in BC over the next decade, and shed some light on the prevailing uncertainties in the field.
Quantum BC is a community initiative that aims to stimulate and enrich collaborative efforts across research, training and innovation in quantum computing in British Columbia, and encompasses much of the quantum computing environment in BC including both academia and industry. It is underpinned by an NSERC-funded graduate level training program in quantum computing that was established between the three universities in 2019.
The Roadmapping Workshop provided an opportunity for members of the BC quantum community to learn more about neighbouring research efforts, build a stronger community, strategize and galvanize R&D efforts, highlight priorities for funding in strategic areas, and determine benchmarks for ongoing technology development and adoption.
A key factor contributing to the success of the workshop was the collective effort of the roadmapping “Champions”, who were invited as experts in their field to lead group discussions on various hardware and software topics. In addition to faculty members from SFU, UVic, UBC and Institut Quantique, our Champions included industry representatives from D-Wave, 1QBit, Microsoft, Rigetti, University of Colorado Boulder, and CMC Microsystems. The Champions were integral to the smooth running of the workshop, dedicating several hours to preparing pre-reading materials, testing the workshop structure, and providing feedback on the format, topics and outcomes.
The 75 workshop attendees included students, faculty and staff from the province’s three major universities, representatives from our partners at Institut Quantique (Sherbrooke, Quebec), and industry leaders in BC and beyond. Attendees discussed state-of-the-art quantum hardware, including gate-based, photonic, annealing and trapped ion quantum computers, as well as the potential for future development and strategies to maximize the societal and industrial impact of these emerging technologies.
The workshop also addressed current research, opportunities and challenges in quantum software for applications in chemistry, machine learning and optimization, as well as hybrid quantum/classical algorithms. The results will be used over the next several months to define a roadmap for quantum computing technology development in BC that considers both hardware and software in concert with one another.
Looking to the future of BC’s quantum computing ecosystem
“The workshop was a fantastic way to connect with people across BC’s quantum computing ecosystem and discuss what the future holds for British Columbia,” said Lukas Chrostowski, Director of the CREATE training program and Champion for the photonic quantum computing session. “Despite being a long day on Zoom, it was exciting to gain new insights generated through the discussions and presentations.”
As the field of quantum computing in BC continues to evolve, this workshop will become an annual event in order to strengthen connections across the ecosystem, revisit expectations for technology development, and introduce a new cohort of graduate students to this exciting and ever-evolving field.
Story contributed by David Weekes, Business Innovation Manager, Stewart Blusson Quantum Matter Institute