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NEW DELHI : Information technology companies in India are pushing for faster adoption of quantum technology through investments and partnerships with technical institutes who will provide the latest know-how in quantum physics, build laboratories, and scout and nurture talent to create quantum applications.

For instance, on 23 July, Tech Mahindra signed a pact with Mahindra University to set up the so-called Makers Lab, to drive research and development in quantum and metaverse, among other things. A day prior, IT firm Mphasis announced a pact with Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Madras to “accelerate fundamental and applied research" in quantum computing.

Mphasis also announced a grant of 21 crore to develop and attract talent, offer scholarships, and assist startups. The company has forged a similar partnership with the University of Calgary in Canada.

India’s biggest IT company, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), is also taking interest in this field. Anil Sharma, head of corporate incubation at TCS, said the company has intensified engagement with academia, industry players, and quantum technology vendors to build and expand its quantum network in the past year.

Quantum computers use principles of quantum physics for information processing to deliver an alternative model of high-performance computing. They use quantum principles, superposition, to represent bits—1 and 0—simultaneously. This boosts their overall processing power significantly, allowing more complex problems to be solved in a fraction of the time.

Although a real quantum computer doesn’t exist currently, IT firms are hoping to leverage the enormous computing capabilities promised by such computers in the solutions they provide to their customers by making early inroads, said industry experts.

“Quantum allows us to solve some of the classical problems that we could not solve earlier," said Nikhil Malhotra, global head, Makers Lab, Tech Mahindra. He pointed out that understanding protein molecules for drug discovery, fraud detection in banking, financial services and insurance (BFSI) sector, satellite placement, and cryptography are some areas where it can make a difference.

Mphasis, on its part, has developed a EON (Energy Optimized Network) quantum computing framework, for which it has applied for patent. The company claims that it can overcome the limitations of Noisy Intermediate Scale Quantum (NISQ) quantum computing systems.

NISQ refers to the current era in quantum computing, in which firms can develop working quantum computers that can perform tasks classical computers can’t. Classical computers can then run machine learning (ML) operations on those results, to yield final solutions. This is how quantum-as-a-service (QaaS) products are offered currently.

That said, industry experts and IT firms admit that the efforts won’t see fruition overnight.

Malhotra at Tech Mahindra said some cases can gain from quantum computing currently, while others may see uses in the next 4-5 years. “But, then the industry has to start now in creating that kind of skill set for them," he added.

Prashanth Kaddi, Partner, Deloitte India said quantum is the “logical next big thing" and could drive future growth for IT companies.

“A big chunk of business, as well as internal insights, comes from data and analytics. The volume of data has grown so large and the race to generate insight and turn it into action is so intense that classical computing is being stretched to its limits," he added.

According to a February report by Nasscom, enterprise adoption of quantum computing is expected to surge from the current 1-2% to 35-45% over the next decade.

However, unlike cloud and some other technologies, quantum computing requires an understanding of quantum physics over and above the knowledge of computing. This is why IT firms are turning to educational institutes now. “The reason we went to Mahindra University is that they have good physicists over there," said Malhotra.

“In addition to identifying several industry partners and prospective clients for the commercialization of jointly developed quantum solutions, such partnerships enable joint design and capability building in next-gen technologies,“ said Srikumar Ramanathan, chief solutions officer at Mphasis.

Having said that, IT companies and experts acknowledged that the money spent so far on quantum research in India is small and exploratory. But it is expected to grow as more companies join the bandwagon. “For IT services, the future lies in QaaS. There is no denying that this will hit us in the next 2-3 years,“ Malhotra added.

Sharma at TCS said that investments in the segment may increase rapidly in the coming years “given the disruptive impact" that quantum can make in key areas.



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