Amid war, Israel opens R&D center to put the country on the map of quantum computing

Tel Aviv’s Quantum Machines, the operator of the new center, says the lab boasts the ‘world’s best-equipped testbed’ for startups and researchers to develop quantum computing tech

Sharon Wrobel is a tech reporter for The Times of Israel.

Nir Alfasi, Science Lead at the Israeli Quantum Computing Center (second from right) with the Quantum Machines team operating the new lab based at Tel Aviv University. (Dima Karminsky)
Nir Alfasi, Science Lead at the Israeli Quantum Computing Center (second from right) with the Quantum Machines team operating the new lab based at Tel Aviv University. (Dima Karminsky)

Israel is next week officially opening a quantum computing center that will provide access to advanced research facilities for local startups and academia, and serve as a testbed to make strides in the development of quantum computing technologies.

Headed and operated by Tel Aviv-based startup Quantum Machines, the Israeli Quantum Computing Center (IQCC), funded by the Israel Innovation Authority at an investment of NIS 100 million ($27 million), is established to help Israel compete in the global race to develop practical quantum computing capabilities. The official opening ceremony will take place on June 24th as part of Tel Aviv University’s AI and Cyber Week.

Quantum processors promise computational horsepower to solve the most complex problems, where regular computers fail, to help lead breakthroughs in the areas of economics, technology, security, engineering, and science, in fields such as drug discovery, cryptography, financial modeling, and supply-chain logistics.

“The motivation is to put Israel on the map of quantum [computional ability] as we don’t want to be dependent on other countries and other technologies,” Nir Alfasi, Science Lead at the IQCC told The Times of Israel. “We want to be able to build our own technology and not stay behind in this really important race.”

“We are not building quantum computers, but we want to make them accessible to the Israeli ecosystem – researchers, startup companies, and cooperations – and to bring to Israel, the most advanced technology of quantum computers,” Alfasi said.

Founded in 2018 by award-winning quantum electronics experts Dr. Itamar Sivan, Dr. Yonatan Cohen, and Dr. Nissim Ofek, Quantum Machines develops hardware and software solutions for the control and operation of quantum systems to facilitate research and enable future breakthroughs. It also developed the QUA, a standard universal language for quantum computers that the startup says allows researchers and scientists to write programs for varied quantum computers with one unified code.

Dr. Yonatan Cohen, CTO and co-founder of Quantum Machines at the Israeli Quantum Computing Center at Tel Aviv University. (Dima Karminsky)

Quantum computing harnesses quantum mechanics and abstract physics to perform numerous calculations all at once to rapidly solve problems that are too complex for the most powerful classical computers to handle. Quantum computers process exponentially more data compared to classical computers, using quantum bits, or qubits, the basic unit of quantum information.

Tech giants like Google, Microsoft, IBM, and Intel are all racing at a fast pace to build the next big thing and make quantum computing more workable and accessible. Meanwhile, countries like China, the United States, Germany, India, and Japan are also pouring huge funds into developing their exclusive quantum abilities vying for supremacy in what promises to be the new age of computing.

“All of the world’s most advanced quantum computing research facilities are closed or offer very limited access to those outside of their organization,” said Dr. Itamar Sivan, CEO and co-founder of Quantum Machines. “You can’t compete if you need to fly halfway around the world for limited access.”

The IQCC, located at Tel Aviv University, will be equipped with three quantum computers of different qubit types operated by Quantum Machine’s processor-based OPX control system, as well as with classical high-performance supercomputing resources. The center is run by a team of eight employees from Quantum Machines.

“When we thought about what would propel quantum computing forward, we realized that building the most advanced facility in terms of interoperability, modularity, and integration with high-performance computing (HPC) and the cloud was the way to go,” said Sivan. “Our open architecture approach will ensure that the facility can be continuously upgraded and scaled to stay at the cutting edge, making it an accelerator for the entire ecosystem in Israel and internationally.”

The launch of the center comes as Israel is more than eight months into a war with the Hamas terror group, and thousands of tech workers and startup founders are called up for reserve duty to join the fighting.

Employees at Quantum Machines, which was selected to establish the Israeli Quantum Computing Center at Tel Aviv University. (Dima Karminsky)

Alfasi said that the war did have an impact on the preparations for the opening of the IQCC, with some staff on reserve duty and delays in construction.

“To begin with, we had a problem with bringing engineers to install the international systems coming from Finland, or from England,” said Alfasi. “If people did not want to come or we couldn’t bring them to Israel, we did it remotely.”

The startup managed to overcome the “extra challenge,” causing some delay in the launch of the center, which Alfasi said is the “world’s best-equipped testbed” for developing new quantum computing technologies.

“Before the IQCC, a developer of a quantum processor chip would need to build their own testing setup, costing millions,” said Cohen, who serves as CTO of Quantum Machines. “Now, researchers can plug their chip into our testbed and benefit from the most advanced setup in the world, accelerating their development process and reducing costs significantly.”

Ahead of the opening of the IQCC, Quantum Machines joined forces in March last year with US gaming and computer graphics giant Nvidia to develop a new hardware system to connect and integrate quantum computers with classical computers. The new system, Nvidia DGX Quantum, will be first deployed at the IQCC.

“Quantum computing is not yet really useful for day-to-day problems,” said Alfasi. “We believe that the nearest future step is hybrid quantum and classical high-performance computing to be able to unlock the full potential of quantum computing.”

The market for global quantum computing is projected to top $12.6 billion by 2032, growing fast from $885.4 million last year, according to a research report by Fortune Business Insights.

The new quantum computing center is part of the NIS 1.25 billion ($336 million) Israel National Quantum Initiative, launched in 2018 to facilitate relevant quantum research, develop human capital in the field, encourage industrial projects, and invite international cooperation on R&D.

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