NEW DELHI :
The budget proposal to earmark ₹8,000 crore for quantum computing over the next five years can boost critical areas of the Indian economy, including space research and defence capabilities. However, the impact will only be felt over the long term, industry officials said.
The quantum of money proposed for the sector is almost on a par with the amount invested by the US to develop the technology.
However, the success of the initiative will depend on careful planning and implementation. Moreover, considering that there are no private companies in India working on quantum computing, the initiative, by and large, will have to be led by state-run institutions.
“The fact that India’s allocation for quantum research is close to what some of the larger economies like the US are planning to spend, reflects a serious effort on the government’s part," said Vishal Malhotra, tax partner, Ernst and Young (EY).
Quantum computers will open up enormous opportunities for India, particularly in the field of defence, space research, weather forecasting, and healthcare by crunching large amounts of data and solving problems infinitely faster than existing supercomputers. Google’s 54-bit quantum computer took merely 200 seconds for an experimental computation that a supercomputer would have taken 10,000 years to solve.
“The announcement is significant as the scale of investments necessary to make headway in quantum computing is not possible without the support of the government or large corporations. It should boost attempts of domestic technology providers, who have been keen to enter this field, but did not have the necessary scale or resources," said Nishant Singh, head of technology and telecom data, GlobalData, a data analytics firm.
The recent advancements in the field of quantum computing, including IBM’s unveiling of the world’s first quantum computing system for scientific and commercial use, Google’s quantum supremacy, and Microsoft taking quantum computing to the cloud, have made the world realise the possibilities it can offer.
Governments the world over are starting to grasp the potential of the technology. China already has a national strategy on quantum computing, having spent $400 million on a national quantum lab and filing twice as many patents as the US on quantum technology.
The US government had also announced a National Quantum Initiative in 2019 with an outlay of $1.2 billion ( ₹8,500 crore).
The recent announcement by the finance minister is a significant development for the scientific and industrial community of India, said Anil Prabhakar, professor, department of electrical engineering, Indian Institute of Technology, Madras.
“The quantum science and technology initiative in India has been broadly defined around computing, communications, and measurements. Of these, quantum computing is expected to provide the ability to solve hitherto intractable problems in resource optimisation, machine learning, and data security, and also help us design new materials with futuristic applications," Prabhakar said.
However, we are 5-10 years away from seeing quantum computing being used to solve real-world problems., according to experts.