Academics from University of Lagos, University of Ibadan (UI), Obafemi Awolowo Univedsity and 13 other tertiary institutions are set to join Wits University as part of the African Research Alliance (ARUA) to further quantum computing efforts.
The project funded by IBM under its IBM Q Network will be the gateway for academics across South Africa and to the 15 universities who are part of the ARUA.
Quantum computing promises to be able to solve certain problems – such as chemical simulations and types of optimization – that will forever be beyond the practical reach of classical machines.
IBM first made quantum computers available to the public in May 2016 through its IBM Q Experience quantum cloud service and has doubled the power of its quantum computers annually since 2017.
To gain access to the IBM Q quantum cloud service, ARUA scholars will be required to submit quality research proposals to a scientific committee of Wits and IBM experts for approval.
Wits Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Postgraduate Affairs, Professor Zeblon Vilakazi said “To expand the IBM Q Network to include Wits will drive innovation in frontier-technologies and benefit African-based researchers, academics and students who now have access to decades of quantum computing capabilities at the click of a button,” said.
Researchers at Wits will investigate the use of quantum computing and machine learning in the fields of cosmology and molecular biology with a specific focus on HIV drug discovery. The teams will also jointly study quantum teleportation, a field pioneered by IBM Fellow Charles Bennett.
Vice president, Emerging Market Solutions and director, IBM Research – Africa, Dr. Solomon Assefa, said “For Africa to remain competitive for the coming decades we must get the next generation of students quantum ready.”
Scholars from 16 ARUA universities include: Addis Ababa University; University of Ghana; University of Nairobi; University of Lagos; University of Ibadan; Obafemi Awolowo University lle-Ife; University of Rwanda; University Cheikh Anta Diop; University of Cape Town; University of Kwa-Zulu Natal; University of Pretoria.
The rest are: Rhodes University; University of Stellenbosch; University of the Witwatersrand; University of Dar es Salaam and Makerere University, will have the opportunity to apply for access to IBM Q’s most-advanced quantum computing systems and software for teaching quantum information science and exploring early applications.