Competition aims to promote quantum leap In 2020 Atos and the UK Science and Technologies and Facilities Council (STFC) Hartree Centre, launched a competition aimed at encouraging industry and academia to use quantum computing technology. Their Joseph Fourier Prize is a

competition for scientists in the UK and Ireland, applying individually or in teams to develop quantum algorithms. It is part of the larger Atos Joseph Fourier Prize, which has run local competitions previously in France and the Czech Republic. The prize aims to reward the work of

researchers, academics and industrial scientists in quantum computing. First place will receive €10,000, while the second and third place applicants will receive three days access to the Atos and Hartree Quantum Learning Machine (QLM), which can be used to develop their quantum algorithms. Michael Gleaves, deputy director at the

STFC Hartree Centre said: ‘From Hartree’s perspective, quantum computing offers a new way of packaging up the maths and solving problems that classical computing systems do not perform well. ‘Where we are optimising, routing or thinking about interactions from a small chemical space, quantum computing is a new way of approaching that problem. By thinking about it in a quantum way, we can often get some improvements in our classical systems,’ he added. QLM systems are classical computers

that can simulate quantum computing systems, allowing researchers to develop algorithms and test them on different simulations of quantum systems.

Encourage development Atos has made some of the software tools available to the public. MyQLM allows scientists to develop their own algorithms on a laptop. First revealed in June and showcased at SC20, Atos’ QLM for Combinatorial Optimization environment allows users to prepare codes to tackle such optimisation problems using either quantum annealing or gate-based quantum computing. These software tools are fully

compatible with the Atos QLM. This means that scientists can launch myQLM programs on their organisation’s QLM system, or get access to the QLM system at the Hartree Centre, to simulate larger quantum systems (more qubits), and also use advanced features such as quantum circuit optimisers and noisy simulators. ‘We have defined a quantum processing unit (QPU) and a quantum language that

6 Scientific Computing World Winter 2021

allows people to develop algorithms or circuits using the nomenclature that is used in quantum computing,’ said Gleaves. ‘QLM is a classical computer with a software environment that allows you to develop these quantum applications using these programming tools and writing to this QPU definition. Different size QLM machines allow you to emulate 30 to 41 qubits.

‘Going from 30 to 40 qubits doesn’t

sound massive, but every qubit you add is an exponential leap in performance,’ added Gleaves.

It is hoped that these tools will

encourage both industry and academia to begin thinking about, and solving their problems using quantum algorithms. Andy Grant, group vice president for

large strategic HPC projects at Atos, said: ‘At the moment it is unclear which of the quantum hardware methods will lead in a few years. Each of them has their benefits and their problems. ‘The approach that Atos is taking is

to develop a platform that creates an abstraction layer and map that onto the different hardware technologies. You could write your quantum algorithm and map it onto superconducting, trapped ion, annealing machines or three or four other flavours of quantum computing,’ notes Grant.

Competition drives innovation Gleaves expanded on the competition that aims to expand the technology and drive innovation. ‘The Joseph Fourier Prize is designed

to encourage innovative algorithm development, to get people thinking about how they can tackle a computing problem using a quantum computing approach,’ he said. ‘We provide the toolkit that people can run on their laptops. You cannot run

big problems on your laptop but you can certainly develop your algorithms. If the projects are successful and show promise then they will get access to the QLM at the Hartree centre and access to other resources,’ Gleaves added. ‘An ideal project would be some industrial challenge involving an end-user with a problem, probably an academic group that can help to solve that problem in a different way by mapping that problem to a quantum algorithm.’ Through this competition, Atos is

supporting innovation in quantum applications including communications, computation, simulation, sensing and metrology that will lead to tangible industrial applications. When the competition was first announced, Clay Van Doren, CEO, Atos UK and Ireland, said: ‘We believe this to be the first such competition in the UK which supports and celebrates researchers’ own work, rather than answering a set challenge, thereby fostering live research. To stay at the forefront of quantum innovation and competitiveness, UK public organisations and enterprises need to

“We have defined a quantum processing unit and a quantum language that allows people to develop algorithms or circuits using quantum computing nomenclature”

understand how to harness this emerging technology effectively. We hope this prize can be a springboard for quantum research and ultimately, collective competitiveness.’ The competition is open for three months with a submission deadline of 26 April 2021. Gleaves said: ‘We are on the cusp of a quantum revolution and at this crucial stage it is vitally important we encourage and promote the excellent work in helping apply theory to practical quantum computing use. We are pleased to partner with Atos and play a central role in the judging for prospective winners of this prize.’

The Atos Joseph Fourier Prize was

first launched in France and pays tribute to mathematician Joseph Fourier, whose work in the 18th century largely contributed to the mathematical modelling of physical phenomena.

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