Abu Dhabi, highly regarded as a global economic powerhouse, is now well on its way to becoming a quantum powerhouse.
The National, a UAE paper, reports that the Technology Innovation Institute, an Abu Dhabi government funded research institution, have begun building the region’s first quantum computer.
“This will put the UAE on the map to be a known entity for research on such a topic. And that’s a big achievement for the entire Arab world,” Boulos Alfakes, a senior researcher, told the newspaper.
The institute’s engineers are busy building the device. The newspaper reports that two dilution refrigerators arrived from Finland. Emirates Global Aluminium, an Abu Dhabi firm, provided the aluminium that will hold the quantum chip.
In March 2021, the QRC announced its devices will use superconducting qubits, similar to Google and IBM technology, saying that the approach offers the best qubit technology to scale to a larger quantum computer.
According to professor Jose Ignacio Latorre, the chief of research at the Quantum Research Centre, building a quantum computer is just the first step. He sees this as a part of a long-term vision to develop leadership in advanced technology, which will be “critical to national security and economic development.”
He told The National News, “There will be a dramatic difference between the countries that own the technology and the ones that depend on the technology. The Emirates, like Singapore or Israel, [countries] of comparable sizes, cannot depend fully on allies. They have to develop their own technological strategies and they have to be sovereign. That is fundamental.”
UAE scientists are also planning to engage in research on applications such as quantum algorithms for artificial intelligence and drug discovery, a new generation of navigation devices and cryptography that will make data safer in a post-quantum world, according to the paper.
Latorre added that building a quantum computer will be “useless” without education and talent development.
“We have to engage the country as a whole,” Latorre said. “We need companies, oil and gas, telecommunications, so when a new technology comes, you [are] ready for that … these efforts should merge with efforts at universities and should also engage industry. The more educated people are, the more reasonable our planet should be.”
In an editorial, the National News said the agenda is more than just a quantum nationalism muscle flex, but to create technologies to help science and society.
The editors write: “The assembly of this supercomputer, at the Technology Innovation Institute (TII), represents the beginning of a journey that is vital for the UAE not only to safeguard its strategic interests, but also to help solve the most urgent problems confronting humankind.”