In a major turning point for innovation in Canada, leaders from across Québec and IBM came together in Bromont for the unveiling of the first IBM Quantum System One dedicated to research into sustainability.
Hundreds of people, among them top Quebec policymakers and execs from IBM, The Platform for Digital and Quantum Innovation of Quebec (PINQ2) and other companies, gathered on September 22 at IBM Bromont, a chip manufacturing and innovation facility not far from Montreal, Quebec. They welcomed a special new addition to the plant — an IBM Quantum System One, one of the most advanced quantum computers in our global fleet.
The system is the most recent on-premises addition to the IBM Quantum global ecosystem, joining installations in Germany, Japan, and the US. It sports our utility-scale, 127-qubit Eagle processor, capable of serving as a scientific tool to explore a new scale of problems that classical systems may never be able to solve. The installation of this system was the culmination of over a year of collaborative work, posing unique challenges that come with deploying a complex system beyond the boundaries of our IBM Quantum Data Center without sacrificing performance. The success of this project was the result of the hard work of the IBM Bromont team working closely with the IBM Quantum and IBM GRE teams.
The System One in Quebec will be dedicated to sustainability, accessed by academics and businesses across Canada through the cloud. PINQ2, a non-profit organization founded by the Ministry of Economy, Innovation and Energy of Quebec and Sherbrooke University, will be administrating access to the computer, with a number of organizations already eager to start using it. Among them are Hydro-Quebec, one of Quebec’s main electricity providers, as well as Sherbrooke's Institut Quantique.
The day kicked off with Pierre Fitzgibbon, Quebec's minister of economy, innovation and energy, and IBM Quantum Vice President Jay Gambetta, jointly cutting the ribbon in front of the machine. They were accompanied by many who had helped see this project to fruition, among them Ruoyi Zhou, executive director of IBM's Discovery Accelerator, Alessandro Curioni, IBM Research Europe and Africa director, as well as PINQ2 CEO Eric Capelle and Marie-Eve Boulanger, the quantum program manager at PINQ2.
The IBM Bromont plant, opened in 1972, is the largest IBM semiconductor assembly and testing facility in the world and boasts an impressive legacy in chip manufacturing. The chief director of the facility and IBM Canada Site Location Executive Stéphane Tremblay said to attendees that the facility has produced processors for popular video game consoles, including the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii. While it’s no longer contributing to the gaming industry, IBM Bromont remains one of Canada’s leading exporters of semiconductors, and it also performs custom assembly and testing for companies, including complex system-in-package (SiP) and photonics solutions.
Inside a tent set up for the event, all the key players gave speeches commemorating the event. Minister Fitzgibbon, Jay Gambetta, PINQ2 CEO Eric Cappelle and others thanked all those who have contributed to the launch of the computer in Quebec and expressed their hope that in the near future, Bromont’s System One will achieve important results. Quantum computers are “another generation of computers which will allow the resolution of important social problems,” Fitzgibbon said during his speech.
“To me, this is a monumental day for IBM,” said Gambetta. “Over the past 18 months, we've been working closely with our partners in this room to establish a leading technical hub in Canada, a hub that is anchored on robust innovation, committed to the acceleration of quantum computing and high-performance computing. By advancing these technologies together, we have an opportunity to push the boundaries of what is possible.”
Gambetta stressed that this particular machine will be especially important when it comes to potential quantum application in the area of sustainability. “This could include proving batteries for exploiting replacements to lithium, or seeking ways that we can increase the longevity of batteries," he said. "It could also see the exploration of more effective fertilizer and even the potential to discover more efficient ways to re-engineer our global grid.”
Sustainability has been key to the partnership between IBM and PINQ2, and future applications in this area are high on the list for IBM's Ruoyi Zhou, who’s been very closely involved in this project, and PINQ2’s CEO Eric Capelle. “It’s the first time that a quantum computer is going to be dedicated to all things sustainable development. It won’t be just that, but it will be a priority,” Capelle said.
Just this past March, Zhou and her team unveiled a quantum computer at Cleveland Clinic dedicated to healthcare. “Now, this Quantum System One at IBM Bromont will be dedicated specifically to sustainability,” Zhou said. “IBM has been striving to make the world more sustainable. And here in Quebec, we will use this System One to search for new technological solutions that can help the environment, be it better batteries, more efficient carbon capture, or other applications.”
Curioni added that “this system will be the key engine of our partnership with PINQ2, and our Quebec-IBM Discovery Accelerator for sustainability — a critical seed to create a valuable quantum computing ecosystem in the region.”
After the speeches, attendees remained to ask questions about quantum and interacting with quantum-related demonstrations set up by IBM researchers. One demo, on using quantum computing to develop better batteries, attracted great interest of minister Fitzgibbon. He asked the project lead, Jamie Garcia from IBM’s research lab in Almaden, California, about the possible future use of this battery technology, as improving battery storage capabilities remains an important area or research.
We look forward to seeing the exciting research that comes out of this processor — and the potential impact that these results may have as we build a more sustainable world.
Pictured in top banner photo, L-R: Alessandro Curioni, IBM Fellow and Vice President Europe and Africa and Director IBM Research Zurich, IBM; Jamie Thomas, General Manager, Technology Lifecycle Services and IBM Enterprise Security Executive, IBM; Stéphane Tremblay, Chief Director, Bromont, Site Location Executive, IBM Canada; Nathalie Le Prohon, Director, IBM Technologies, Québec, IBM; Dave McCann, President, IBM Canada and Associate Director, IBM Consulting Canada, IBM; Isabelle Charest, Minister Responsible for Sport, Recreation and the Outdoors, Government of Québec; Jay Gambetta, IBM Fellow and Vice President, IBM Quantum, IBM; Pierre Fitzgibbon, Minister of Economy and Innovation and Energy, Government of Québec; Eric Capelle, CEO, PINQ²; Marie-Eve Boulanger, Program Manager – Quantum, PINQ²; Richard St-Pierre, Executive Director of DistriQ, Quantum Innovation Zone of Québec. (Credit: CP Images for IBM.)