Intel spends a little to make quantum leap

Intel has invested in quantum computing, a technology breakthrough that promises to rewrite the rules of computing

Intel is investing in its future by setting aside $50m to support quantum computing research over the next 10 years.

But the invesment, which works out at $5m per year, is less than 0.05% of the chipmaker's annual research and development (R&D) budget, which was $11.5 bn in 2014, according to the IC Insights Strategic Reviews database.

Intel said quantum computing holds the promise of solving complex problems that are practically insurmountable today, including intricate simulations such as large-scale financial analysis and more effective drug development. But according to the firm's CEO, Brian Krzanich, the technology is at least 12 years away.

Quantum computing is an area of research that Intel has been exploring because it has the potential to augment the capabilities of tomorrow's high-performance computers, the company said.

In an article posted on the Intel website, Krzanich wrote: "Solving big problems is what we do at Intel, and it’s what gets me excited."

Commenting on the challenges of quantum computing, he added: "This is a not just an Intel problem, it is a challenge the whole industry is coming together around. It will take significant resources and our best engineering minds – and it will not be easy."

The chipmaker has begun a research project with QuTech, the quantum research institute of Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) and TNO, the Dutch organisation for applied research, to further the development of quantum computers.

"In the next five to 10 years, progress in quantum computing will increasingly require the combination of excellent science with high-level engineering," said QuTech lead scientist Lieven Vandersypen. 

"For the realisation of complex circuits containing large numbers of quantum bits, the know-how from the semiconductor industry is essential, and QuTech is thrilled to partner with the leading semiconductor company in the world."

In 2014, IBM invested $3bn of its R&D budget into next-generation chip technology, including quantum chips.

Mike Mayberry, Intel vice-president and managing director of Intel Labs, said: "Expertise in specialised electronics combined with advanced physics is required to move quantum computing closer to being a reality."

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