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Quantum computing conference to take place in Cambridge

Riverlane is inviting submissions for contributed talks at next year’s inaugural Quantum Computing Theory in Practice (QCTIP) conference 2020 which will take place in Cambridge.

Talks will be selected on the basis of scientific excellence and workshop-friendliness. Topics will include applications and architectures of quantum computers; quantum algorithms; quantum compilation and circuit optimisation; quantum error correction and fault tolerance; simulation of quantum systems; theory of near-term quantum computing; and verification of quantum devices.

QCTIP has emerged from a series of Heilbronn quantum algorithms meetings hosted in Bristol and Cambridge since 2010.

Themes to be explored at the event on April 6-8 at the Centre for Mathematical Sciences start with the theory of the whole quantum software stack, seconded by practical aspects of running experiments on current and NISQ devices, and thirdly scaling up to more and higher-quality qubits.

The programme committee includes Srinivasan Arunachalam of MIT/IBM Research and chair Iordanis Kerenidis, CNRS senior researcher/QCWare. Speakers from IBM Research, Google and Oxford University have been invited.

All submissions for talks must be made online through the EasyChair submission system.

Dr Steve Brierley, CEO of Riverlane, at St Andrew's House in Cambridge. Picture: Keith Heppell
Dr Steve Brierley, CEO of Riverlane, at St Andrew's House in Cambridge. Picture: Keith Heppell

Riverlane is based at St Andrew’s House in the centre of town and is run by Dr Steve Brierley, has spent 10 years researching algorithms and architectures for quantum computers, most recently as a senior research fellow in applied mathematics at the University of Cambridge. The company writes software for quantum computers, with the software being run on a quantum computer based at Oxford Quantum Circuits.

“There’s only 50 quantum computers currently around, and it’s likely to remain a limited number,” says Dr Brierley. “Quantum computers are very good at certain things: you won’t see one on your phone any time soon, though it might be used to make the chips on the phone run faster.

“It costs several million pounds to buy the components to build a quantum computer and you have to get the staff – there’s very few people who know how to build one. We work with companies that already use computational modelling in design, for instance Merck, which has a performance materials division which includes everything from lip gloss to organic LEDs in a TV.”

Dr Brierley’s expertise was recently called upon by the Guardian to solve a bit of a spat between Google and IBM. Google announced its Sycamore quantum processor had performed a specific task in 200 seconds that would take the world’s best supercomputer 10,000 years to complete, meaning it had achieved “quantum supremacy” by exceeding the potential of traditional devices. But in a blog post IBM researchers said the result should be treated with “a large dose of scepticism due to the complicated nature of benchmarking an appropriate metric”.

Dr Brierley told the Guardian: “It’s clearly an amazing achievement. I think this is going to be one of those moments when people look back and say, ‘That was the time that really changed this field of quantum computing.’ It is also a great moment in time to stop talking about quantum supremacy, which has unfortunate historical connotations, and move on to talking about quantum advantage, which has a useful application.”

Quantum computing is so new there isn’t a standard operating system – so Riverlane is writing one.

“It’s quite difficult because if you write software for one quantum computer it won’t work on any other – so we’re currently developing an operating system, which we expect to be complete within 18 months – as an initial product,” Dr Brierley told the Cambridge Independent. “The challenge in the sector is what is the best way to build a quantum computer and this operating system will remove the uncertainty.”

Steve Brierley (centre) with some of the team at Riverlane. Picture: Keith Heppell
Steve Brierley (centre) with some of the team at Riverlane. Picture: Keith Heppell

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