India has ambitious plans and aspirations in the realm of quantum computing. Earlier this year, the Indian government allocated INR 6000 crore towards the National Mission on Quantum Technologies and Applications, which aims to develop indigenous quantum computers and advance quantum technologies.
Simultaneously, the country is also actively investing in a quantum workforce, research and development, establishing labs and institutes dedicated to quantum computing, and supporting startups in the field. However, to advance India’s ambitions in the quantum space, access to quantum computers is pivotal.
As part of the National Quantum Mission (NQM), India will develop intermediate-scale quantum computers with 50-1000 physical qubits, but they are expected to be delivered in the next eight years. This is where services like Amazon Braket could prove to be monumental, since it enables developers and researchers to test their quantum computing algorithms on quantum simulators and quantum hardware.
By doing this, they can get a reasonable degree of confidence in the algorithm’s performance before running it on an actual quantum computer, which is expensive and generally takes time to get access to.
“Without access to a quantum computer, the barriers are significant. Researchers seeking to utilise a quantum computer face a cumbersome process. They must secure a time slice on a quantum computer, wait for their turn, reminiscent of the process used with large computer machines in the 1960s,” said Kanishka Agiwal, head of service lines, India & South Asia at AWS, sharing his aim to democratise access to quantum computing.
Collaborates with MeitY
AWS is not only bringing Indian developers and researchers access to quantum computers, it recently partnered with the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) to set up the Quantum Computing Applications Lab (QCAL), which is the only initiative of its kind in India that provides quantum computing as a service on the cloud to government ministries and departments.
“So, the lab became our first effort in India, which would call for proposals from various academicians, researchers, institutes, startups, and developers to come in and tell us what kind of quantum problems they want to solve?” Agiwal said, adding that this was done across two different cohorts.
The first received around 21 applications and 17 of them were greenlighted. The second cohort was relatively bigger and received 75 applications, out of which 62 were greenlighted.
“And they’re across multiple domains. From a technology standpoint, they’re doing things around quantum machine learning, quantum mechanics, quantum crypto, quantum key distribution, quantum materials, sciences, and so on and so forth. Whereas from a domain standpoint, we’re doing things in agriculture, in smart infra or financial or health care, protein gene folding, etc,” Agiwal said.
As part of the second cohort, AWS has partnered with the principal scientific advisor’s office and other private players such as Mphasis, Fractal, among others. “We had multiple partners come in and evaluate these proposals,” he said.
The proposals, which were greenlighted, Agiwal says, will receive a number of benefits such as AWS credits to run their quantum computing workload, support from subject matter experts, and constant mentoring.
Building a quantum workforce
With quantum computers, India is also aiming to build a quantum computing workforce and is emphasising a lot on training its young population on quantum technology. The NQM focuses on nurturing a skilled workforce in quantum technology and fostering collaborations with international partners to accelerate technological advancements.
AWS focus is also aligned with the NQM regarding developing a quantum technology skill force in India. “As we were doing our first cohort we realised there is a skill base that needs to be built up here in India. And that’s when we started introducing quantum-specific programmes or courses or curriculum with some of our partners like Mahindra University, QpiAI, with whom we have launched specific quantum courses,” Agiwal said.
Mahindra University currently offers a couple of courses on quantum technology, targeting working professionals as well as students who are still in the learning phase. “Our intent is that India will have a workforce or a skill base of quantum computing, essentially aligned to the NQM,” shared Agiwal.
Democratising access to quantum computers
Amazon Braket essentially provides access to four major quantum computers or quantum hardware as well as a quantum computing simulator. While AWS does not have a quantum computer for now, the hyperscaler is partnering with companies like IonQ, Rigetti, OQC, Xanadu, and QuEra to make quantum computers more accessible.
He also stated that the simulator is a key differentiator in the way AWS brings this forward to the researchers as well as the developer community. “Sometimes utilising a quantum computer for algorithms can yield unsatisfactory results, with accuracy as low as 30% or 40%,” said Agiwal, adding that repeated recording and experimentation are required, which is a time-consuming and cost-prohibitive process.
“This is why simulators offer a more cost-effective and accurate initial development stage before transitioning to a quantum computer. This approach reduces time-to-market, scales efficiently, and minimises costs,” he added.
With Braket, what AWS is aiming to do essentially is to democratise the access to quantum computers. Anybody with an AWS account and a decent laptop can have access to these quantum computers, Agiwal said. “So, you don’t have to be a researcher at a particular facility that houses a quantum computer for you to go and access it. With cloud, we have expanded the scope of adoption, the scope of experimentation and everything else around it.”
While other hyperscalers like Azure offer similar services, AWS stands out by providing access to various quantum computers and including a simulation component within Braket. This combination is what sets AWS apart, according to Agiwal.