The field of quantum sciences is booming and has been prominent in the media throughout 2023. With the year coming to an end, let’s look back at what has happened in the last twelve months in the quantum field in Canada.
The year began with the announcement of the National Quantum Strategy in mid-January by the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, François-Philippe Champagne, which he said will shape the future of quantum technologies in Canada and help create thousands of jobs. The strategy aims to strengthen Canada’s global leadership in quantum research and foster business growth, technology development and talent development in Canada. It is accompanied by a federal investment of $360 million.
Developed through extensive public consultations, including stakeholder roundtables and an online survey, it is based on three components:
- Hardware and Software: Make Canada a world leader in the continued development, deployment, and use of these technologies.
- Communications: Provide Canada with a secure national quantum communications network and post-quantum cryptography capabilities.
- Sensors: Support Canadian designers and early adopters of quantum sensors.
Three months later, in March, two important announcements were made. First, Sweden’s Ericsson created a new quantum research centre in Montreal as part of its global cutting-edge quantum research program. The company uses the centre to conduct research projects aimed at exploring quantum algorithms to accelerate processing in telecommunications networks and distributed quantum computing. Ericsson supports quantum research projects by providing academic challenges, telecommunications and networking skills, and facilities.
That same month, French cloud computing giant OVHcloud announced the deployment of its first quantum computer in Canada at its facilities in Beauharnois, near Montreal. The MosaiQ computer is powered by a photonic processor, and was designed by French company Quandela. This purchase kicks off numerous research and development projects, the company said at the time, with the ambition of providing its research and development teams with appropriate tools to experiment with various use cases around a machine based on a QPU (Quantum Processing Unit).
The summer was also full of important announcements in the quantum field. In mid-June, DistriQ, zone d’innovation quantique, a Sherbrooke, Quebec NPO that presents itself as a catalyst for quantum expertise and infrastructure to promote the emergence and acceleration of innovation in this industry, launched the Quantum Studio in partnership with Quantonation Ventures and the Accelerator for the Creation of Technological Companies (ACET).
The next day, PASQAL, a French company dealing in quantum computing based on ordered neutral atoms, announced its intention to create a state-of-the-art quantum production and processing plant at DistriQ’s Espace Quantique 1 in Sherbrooke. PASQAL Canada intends offer its technology to the North American market to support the accelerated adoption of neutral atom quantum computing in the region.
Also in June, NGen and DIGITAL, supported by the previously announced National Quantum Strategy, joined forces to invest $30 million in projects aimed at stimulating the commercialization of quantum technologies. This five-year funding initiative will see the two partners work with companies to develop their projects and create strategies to protect and commercialize their intellectual property (IP) as well as identify project partners.
In July, IBM and the Plateforme d’innovation numérique et quantique du Québec (PINQ²) began the process of installing the first IBM Quantum System One in Canada. It is a utility system of 127 qubits that will be used to accelerate the use of advanced quantum research in the development of applications to address various complex and pressing challenges.
Under its agreement with the computing giant, PINQ² is the exclusive operator of the quantum computer, with the objective of strengthening Quebec’s position as a world leader in the field of quantum technologies. This collaboration between IBM and PINQ² builds on a partnership announced in February 2022 that created the Quebec-IBM Discovery Accelerator.
The installation of the device went well, and the device was inaugurated on September 22 in the presence of many representatives from government, academia, and industry. It was described as a major turning point in the field of computer science, and for all sectors of innovation in Quebec. It was, at the time of its inauguration, one of the most advanced quantum systems in IBM’s global fleet of quantum computers.
At the beginning of November, France’s PASQAL offered $500,000 in support to the Faculty of Engineering at the Université de Sherbrooke to create a professorship in applied quantum computing, a contribution matched by Canadian federal and provincial organizations. The creation of this research chair is part of PASQAL’s strategy to offer concrete applications to commercial industries, and a near-term quantum advantage.
The quantum year 2023 ended with the launch in early December, at the IBM Quantum Summit in New York, of the IBM Quantum Heron, a 133-qubit processor that the company claims offers up to five times the error reduction of its predecessor.
The new processor powers the IBM Quantum System Two, also unveiled at the event. IBM describes it as the company’s first modular quantum computer, which is the cornerstone of IBM’s quantum-centric HPC architecture. The first of these computers, powered by three IBM Heron processors, is operational at IBM’s facility in Yorktown Heights, NY.
At the same time, IBM unveiled its quantum development roadmap, now extended to 2033, which includes new objectives to improve the quality of gate operations and thus increase the size of quantum circuits.