Currently, there can be no doubt that the US and China lead the global quantum computing (QC) race. The quest to be the best in this sector — along with the acclaim it can bring those nations — will be an ongoing battle over the next decade or so.
However, that doesn’t mean the other players in the space, namely Russia, Canada, the UK, and India are out of the game. Another country, Japan, may even have something up its sleeve.
Japan, the land of Mount Fuji and the samurai warrior. The country that recovered from total annihilation during World War Two to lift itself up to become an economic powerhouse.
After 1945 factories, formerly producing tanks and guns, became centres of camera production and other innocuous products. People’s attitudes changed. Recovery turned into an economic upswing. Mass consumption of goods led to the golden era of the 1960s.
Times were good. Positivity — something unimaginable to those who had witnessed (and miraculously survived) the aftermath of Hiroshima and Nagasaki — meant the Japanese could look on themselves with pride again for the first time in decades.
Everybody knows that Japanese electronics and electrical goods are first-rate, with only the South Koreans able to compete with them in creating reliable, solid products with a sleek look that people want to buy. Yet there are people in the country who see them falling behind when it comes to quantum information systems.
Already there is a twenty-year plan put into place to stop the likes of China and the US going too far in front with the technology.
Latest reports out of the country are that the government is set to cooperate with the private sector and universities to boost innovation in areas such as the financial industry, as well as in manufacturing using quantum computers.
There are even demands to build half a dozen quantum innovation centres in the country by 2025. Part of the plan will be to construct a quantum computer of 100 qubits within the next decade. If successful, this will lead to better, higher-performing machines by the twenty-year cut off period.
So, could we see Japan leading the race in QC on the cusp of the 2040s?
For one, the government sees R&D investment in quantum information systems, encryption solutions, the biotechnology sector and AI, as of prime importance.
‘The evolution of the conventional computer is nearing its limit, and I feel that expectations for the quantum computer have heightened in the last two or three years. Certain types of quantum computers, like IBM Q and D-Wave, have begun to be put to applied use, and we are now at the phase to consider applications and other factors.’
— Tetsuo Kodera, Associate Professor at Tokyo Institute of Technology
According to the Nikkei Asian Review, the Japanese government has already proposed investing a total of 100 billion yen on the initiative, equalling to about $920 million, no small sum.
When it comes to large corporations in the Japanese QC market, there are a number of players who are developing strategies.
NTT Laboratories, based in Tokyo, focusses its business on photonic QC and quantum communication solutions.
Another Riken — which has a parentship with Tokyo University of Science — hopes its superconducting approach to QC will see it successful.
More famous names like Mitsubishi Electric, Hitachi, Toshiba and NEC Corporation all have their own, unique approaches in the space that with the serious capital they have behind them, will certainly see results in the future.
Japanese universities, too, have been busy in the QC space with a number of institutions developing their own centres of research in quantum technology: Keio University has its Advancing Quantum Architecture Group and the Quantum Computing Center. Yokohama National University — Kosaka Laboratory. And at Osaka University, the Quantum Computing Research Group is up and running.
It is in the startup scene, however, that the most interesting things are happening. Though, it is quite difficult to get reliable information as it is hard to find in the English language on the startups.
It was troublesome finding information on A*Quantum, pronounced A-Star Quantum, a QC startup with a reputed (according to their website) 20 million yen in capital stock (that’s just over $180,000). The startup, whose slogan is ‘Leap The World’, develops quantum computing software using gate types and annealing architecture. It also reports it has an ongoing collaboration with universities in the country, providing coordination between firms in the space while nurturing developers working on QC projects. Unfortunately, deep investigation work on LinkedIn and other platforms such as Crunchbase didn’t bring up any details on founders or partners.
I had slightly more success with D-Slit Technologies. Founded in the summer of 2018 by CEO and Software Engineer Yuma Murata, the startup concentrates on solving business problems with quantum mechanics solutions by researching spin glasses and statistical mechanics.
Again, one thing frustrating was the lack of English language resources on the startup scene in Japan. Most, if not all the information, is in Japanese. With a little Google Translate as an aid, I was able to gain more insight.
To find out more about the space, here’s a link to Quantum information science and technology in Japan, a paper published earlier this year by Yoshihisa Yamamoto et al. It is a good overview of the industry in the country without going into too much in detail.
Dark Days Over
If the japan quantum computing scene is going to obtain VC funding in the future (at least from outside of Japan), it will have to make more readily available the scope and range of its work, research and developments in other languages, particularly in English. That way, they will open themselves up to more investment.
It’s guaranteed that as japan quantum computing and the efficacy of its applications in different commercial sectors becomes apparent, more startups will begin appearing in japan quantum computing.
And like they did from the dark days after 1945, the Land of the Rising Sun will show the world how innovative it is and can be to future technologies.
Watch this space for further news out of japan quantum computing sector.