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Technology

Japan, US and Europe team up to counter China's quantum rise

Joint R&D seeks advances in ultrafast computers and secure communications

A component of Google's Quantum Computer. Ultrafast processing will likely play an important role in industry and national security in the future.   © Reuters

TOKYO -- Japan will partner with the U.S. and Europe to develop quantum computers and related technology, Nikkei has learned, broadening their efforts as China pours national resources into the race for ultrafast processing power.

Government officials and researchers gathered in Kyoto on Monday and Tuesday for the International Symposium on Quantum Technology. The three sides affirmed cooperation on quantum computers, quantum measurement and sensors, and communication technology and cryptography.

Japan and the U.S. are expected to sign an agreement on such cooperation soon.

The governments will help fund joint research and personnel exchanges at national agencies, universities and other institutions working on practical quantum technology. They aim to attract private-sector investment as well.

Quantum computing holds the promise of vastly sped-up information processing. They are predicted to revolutionize tasks that would take existing supercomputers years, including the hunt for new drugs and optimizing city and transportation planning.

In October, scientists at Google said they executed a task with quantum computer in "about 200 seconds" versus the roughly 10,000 years a traditional supercomputer would need to solve a similar problem.

Japan, the U.S. and Europe are accelerating their push in the field in response to China's rapid rise. China published more papers on quantum technology than any other country in the decade through 2018, according to Dutch research company Elsevier. The U.S. worries about the technology's implications on national security.

Chinese players like Alibaba Group Holding are working on building quantum computers, as well as on quantum communication, which uses a powerful type of encryption. The Chinese government is building a $10 billion laboratory in Anhui Province that is scheduled to be completed next year.

Japan has a strong track record of foundational research in quantum technology, and has sophisticated abilities on quantum measurements and communication. But it has lagged behind when it comes to putting the technology to practical use use, partly because of smaller investment compared with the U.S. and China.

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