The Irish Centre for High End Computing (ICHEC) has recently announced that it has received a total funding of €150,000 from Intel and Enterprise Ireland for a new collaborative quantum computing project. The project will aim to produce results on Intel’s software quantum simulator for a problem in natural language processing, and will be the first of its kind in Ireland, and potentially worldwide.
Recently ICHEC, who operate under the aegis of the National University of Ireland Galway (NUIG), has identified potential in developing programming expertise on quantum platforms. ICHEC will work on a variety of quantum computing platforms – hardware devices and software simulators – and develop quantum software on them by leveraging the expertise that they have in a plethora of application domains.
Dr. Venkatesh Kannan, who leads ICHEC’s Novel Technologies Activity, remarked upon the importance of designing for the future today; “With the immediate availability of software quantum simulators and small-scale quantum hardware testbeds, it is essential that we develop the software ecosystem and programming expertise to target quantum platforms. It is crucial to do this simultaneously with ongoing efforts to develop larger-scale, reliable and commercially deployable quantum computers in 5-10 years”.
The new collaboration with Intel will use their software quantum simulator (qHiPSTER) that has been deployed on the Irish national supercomputer “Kay”. The collaboration will conduct research in Natural Language Processing (NLP), the computing field involved with the interactions between computers and human languages.
In particular, the project will focus on an aspect of NLP known as distributional compositional semantics model, which describes how information flows between words in a sentence to determine the sentence’s meaning. These algorithms have been shown to offer significant improvements to the quality of results in NLP, particularly for more complex sentences. However, the main challenge in its implementation is the need for large classical computational resources – supercomputers. That’s where the potential power of quantum computing comes in.
Based on a proposal by ICHEC, Intel deemed the project of high value to their operations in Ireland and worldwide. Brian Quinn, Director of Research at Intel Labs Europe said; “This project builds on a long standing technology partnership between Intel and ICHEC. Consistently we aspire through this partnership to develop new knowledge and methods, in this case to determine and demonstrate how an existing quantum algorithm for a specific family of NLP problem can be translated into the Intel Quantum Simulator’s (qHiPSTER) programming paradigm and implemented”.
Dr. Venkatesh Kannan added; “This project will provide the international research community with really valuable best practices for the next generation of quantum programmers. The overarching objective of the quantum programming efforts at ICHEC is to be early programmers of the different quantum platforms that are out there, and practically understand the types and sizes of problems that we can currently solve with them.”
According to Sufian Al Aswad, Centre Manager at ICHEC; “this is a significant win for Ireland, as it demonstrates an effective ecosystem that encourages and supports companies – regardless of their stature, to undertake really exciting and novel R&D projects”.
The project has begun in January 2019.
ICHEC is the national high performance-computing (HPC) centre established in 2005, and is hosted by NUI Galway. With a team of 35+ technology experts, ICHEC is focused on enabling the effective use of high performance computing technologies for industry (MNCs, SMEs and Irish based start-ups), public sector and academia.
ICHEC has established expertise in a number of high-end computing techniques (such as data analytics, machine learning, deep learning and blockchain) that are applied in its research and technology transfer activities.
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