- Baidu is the second major Chinese technology firm to announce it is not pursuing quantum computing.
- Reuters reported that the company will donate its equipment to a quantum computing laboratory.
- A few months ago, Alibaba made a similar strategic move away from quantum.
Chinese tech giant Baidu, known for its search engine, has announced its intention to get out of the quantum computing business and donate its quantum computing laboratory and equipment to the Beijing Academy of Quantum Information Sciences (BAQIS), Reuters reported.
This move, confirmed by a company spokesperson on Wednesday, follows closely on the heels of a similar decision made by Alibaba, another leading Chinese tech firm.
Baidu established its quantum computing research center in 2018, under the leadership of Duan Runyao, a Tsinghua University alumnus, Reuters reported. The center has been one of the leaders in quantum research and development, especially with its 2022 release of Qian Shi, a 36-qubit superconducting quantum computer.
This transition to BAQIS, a government-backed institution founded in December 2017, indicates a broader trend among Chinese tech companies recalibrating their focus on quantum computing research. BAQIS, which enjoys support from the Beijing municipal government and contributions from prestigious institutions like the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Tsinghua University, has previously collaborated with Baidu in quantum research.
Alibaba, another tech heavyweight in China, had earlier set a precedent for such a move. In November, amid a comprehensive company restructuring, Alibaba announced the closure of its quantum computing laboratory and team within its research division. This lab, along with its experimental equipment, was donated to Zhejiang University.
Many Opinions On Significance
Reuters points out that the decisions by both Baidu and Alibaba to exit the direct development of quantum computing technologies and instead support academic and governmental research represent a strategic shift in the quantum computing sector in China. These moves could potentially influence the direction and pace of quantum computing research and development in the country.
It’s a hotly debated topic since Alibaba’s exit from quantum, a debate generally divided into three groups.
Some quantum experts suggest that the tech giants’ rejection of quantum computing could be a broader sign of issues with sustaining commercial quantum globally, while other experts discuss that it is a sign the these companies are focused on short-term business necessities in China, rather than the long-term potential of quantum. Quantum is very expensive to maintain and operate without any current commercialization possibilities — a state that might exist for some time.
Still other opinions on the Alibaba move lean toward the argument that while China has an intense academic focus on quantum, the nation’s entrepreneurs are struggling to commercialize quantum technology.
Baidu and BAQIS’s previous partnership, including the launch of China’s first quantum computing industry intellectual property alliance last March, underscores the collaboration between Chinese industry and academic institutions in the field, Reuters reports.