IIT Madras Becomes First Institute to Tie Up with IBM Global Network

Taking the lead on developing a quantum-ready workforce, the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras has become the first educational institute from India to join IBM’s global quantum network. The latest collaboration will enable students, researchers and allied enterprises to use multinational IT giant’s advanced quantum computing systems to further research and development.

IIT Madras will get cloud-based access to the quantum computers, considering these computers require extremely low temperatures close to zero Kelvin (-273 degree Celsius) facilities which are not yet available.

“We are teaming up with IIT to jointly explore practical applications of quantum computing for business as well as society at large. The idea is to further government’s mission of creating a real quantum ecosystem in India, and upskill the workforce, and also enable the industry to use,” said IBM managing director Sandip Patel.

Creating Quantum-Ready Workforce

With this, IIT Madras is now part of the 180-member global community of the IBM Quantum Network, which also includes start-ups, research laboratories, Fortune 500 companies, apart from 53 academic institutions.
The announcement is also set to contribute to India’s renewed efforts to power up its National Mission on Quantum Technologies & Applications (NM-QTA).

In his latest interview, Principal Scientific Advisor Professor Ajay Sood had told News18, how the government is now speeding up efforts to launch the mission which will set the course for creating a quantum-ready workforce in the country.

The institute had previously joined IBM’s quantum education programme that allowed access to its quantum learning resources, quantum tools, and quantum systems for education and research purpose. In August 2021, IBM Quantum and IIT Madras also jointly offered a course on quantum computing on the NPTEL Platform to over 10,000 participants.

IIT Madras currently offers two advanced inter-disciplinary courses on quantum computing for students of physics and computer engineering. “We have already launched a course on Quantum Technologies co-taught by our faculty and professionals of IBM. We now aim to set up an IITM-IBM Quantum Innovation hub at IIT Madras,” said IIT Madras director V Kamakoti.

Solving Future Challenges

While traditional computers store information in bits as either a 1 or 0, quantum computers store data in qubits as either a 1, a 0, or both simultaneously, which makes it millions times faster than any classical computer. This is what opens doors for researchers to solve several mathematical calculations, and optimisation issues.

“Be it drug discovery, looking for materials for EVs, sustainability or climate change issues, or just improving business efficiency, quantum computers can help address a host of emerging challenges, which the current classical or even supercomputers cannot. It holds promise of solving the most complex mathematical problems,” said IBM Research India director Amit Singhee on Monday.

However, the priority areas for the Chennai-based institute will be to work on advancing core algorithms in research areas like Quantum Machine Learning, Quantum Optimisation, and applications research in finance, as well as securing quantum communications.

“It will enable us to use our interdisciplinary expertise to tackle some of the challenging problems in the domain of quantum computing today. In short, it gives us a unique opportunity to play an active and direct role in this quantum revolution of our times,” said associate professor Prabha Mandayam from department of physics who has also been working on quantum computing.

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