DARPA Tunes in to Quantum Computing

The US military’s research agency unveils a new initiative to harness quantum techniques without waiting for the first operational quantum systems.

The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has announced that it has chosen seven institutions for the first phase of a program they are calling Optimization with Noisy Intermediate-Scale Quantum Devices (ONISQ). One of the goals of the initiative is to develop algorithms for hybrid quantum/classical optimization. By combining quantum elements with classical computers, the researchers hope they can find a way to start benefiting from the powers of quantum computing before the first fully operational, all-quantum systems are ready for production. Four institutions will participate in the hybrid computing part of the study, including Georgia Tech Applied Research Corporation, Universities Space Research Association, Presidents and Fellows of Harvard College, and ColdQuanta, Inc.
Another part of the study will focus on developing “general theoretical methods to pave the way for a quantum optimization paradigm that surpasses the best classical methods for certain classes of combinatorial optimization problems.” Institutions chosen for this phase include University of Tennessee, Clemson University, and Lehigh University.
DARPA hopes the techniques developed through this study will be applicable to “...optimization problems of interest to defense and commercial industry, such as global logistics management, electronics manufacturing, and protein-folding.”