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Israel allocates $60 million to build first quantum computer

Supercomputer components at the San Diego Supercomputer Center at the University of California San Diego (UCSD) in San Diego, California. Supercomputer components at the San Diego Supercomputer Center at the University of California San Diego (UCSD) in San Diego, California.
Supercomputer components at the San Diego Supercomputer Center at the University of California San Diego (UCSD) in San Diego, California. (Bloomberg)

The country is seeking to build its first quantum computer, joining a global race for one of the world’s most important emerging technologies.

Israel is seeking to build its first quantum computer, joining a global race for one of the world’s most important emerging technologies.

The Ministry of Defense and Innovation Authority are taking bids from multinational companies, Israeli businesses and universities for a 198 million-shekel ($60 million) project to build a computer with 30 to 40 qubits, according to Aviv Zeevi, vice president at the Authority’s Technological Infrastructure Division. He expects the winner of the tender to begin work before the end of the year.

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“We want to be in the game,” Zeevi said. “We need to be at least at a reasonable level to be able to develop” varying kinds of hardware and software associated with quantum computers.

Rather than storing information in binary 0s or 1s, like classical computers, a quantum computer’s qubits can be both 0 and 1 simultaneously, which translates into an exponential edge in computing power. In 2019, Google said that its quantum computer solved a problem in minutes that would take the fastest supercomputer about 10,000 years.

The new project is part of Israel’s 1.25 billion shekel national initiative to build up quantum proficiency. While scientists say practical, widespread applications for quantum computers are still years away, countries like China, the U.S. and Germany are devoting large sums to figure out how to master this technology.

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Israel is a tech powerhouse that’s home to several dozen so-called unicorns, or privately owned tech firms worth over $1 billion. But there are only a handful of quantum computing startups, such as the software firm Classiq Technologies and Quantum Machines, which develops hardware and software for quantum computers.

The government initiative “is a massive first step,” said Itamar Sivan, chief executive officer of Quantum Machines. “Our hope is that with continued investments we can grow the burgeoning quantum ecosystem here.”

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