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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/Y004655/1
Title: Software Enabling Early Quantum Advantage - SEEQA
Principal Investigator: Benjamin, Professor SC
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Dr Z Cai Dr B Koczor
Project Partners:
Duality Quantum Photonics Ltd National Quantum Computing Centre Oxford Ionics
Quantum Motion Riverlane Universal Quantum Ltd
Department: Materials
Organisation: University of Oxford
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 June 2023 Ends: 31 March 2025 Value (£): 312,190
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Information Technologies R&D
Related Grants:
EP/Y004191/1 EP/Y004310/1
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
25 Apr 2023 Software Enabled Quantum Computation Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
The project Software Enabling Early Quantum Advantage (SEEQA, pronounced 'seeker') is a joint effort by Oxford, UCL, and Bristol, supported by multiple UK quantum startup companies and NQCC. The aim is to make the era of "quantum advantage" arrive sooner! "Advantage" means having real working quantum computers that can perform tasks that are either impossible, or prohibitively slow or expensive, by any conventional means. We'll know this era has arrived when we can solve otherwise-infeasible tasks in areas such as chemistry and materials discovery or in solving complicated resource allocation problems with near-zero waste.

Although quantum computers have long promised this kind of advantage, it has not yet been realised. There are many reasons -- partly it is just that the prototype hardware needs more time to mature. But progress needs to be made in the practical theory to support quantum computing, to 'lower the bar' that the hardware needs to be able to reach. This is what SEEQA will do, in three main themes:

1. Figuring out how best to use state-of-the-art conventional computing power to help early quantum computers. There are two main ways: First, the conventional computers can actually help run the task that the quantum computer is performing. The task gets broken up into lots of small quantum computations, and the conventional computer gets all the results and puts them together to decide what to do next. The other way a conventional computer can help is by monitoring the quantum processor for errors: there is some detective work to do in order to infer the nature of the errors from the evidence that comes from monitoring, and a conventional computer needs to do this -- it's called decoding.

2. Coming up with new ways in which to handle or suppress errors. As mentioned, quantum computers (especially the early ones) suffer from 'noise' which means little imperfections in everything that is done. If not handled, the resulting errors will lead to useless outputs. There are many ideas for fighting errors, but SEEQA will address new possibilities. In particular, SEEQA will investigate the interface between two major approaches to find new solutions: The approaches are called Quantum Error Mitigation (QEM), which suppresses error damage, and Quantum Error Correction (QEC) which can totally fix errors but is currently very expensive in terms of number of components needed. Also, SEEQA will explore and advance some of the more recent and sophisticated ideas for handling measurement errors -- if you can't trust the output of the quantum computer you are very limited!

3. Finally, SEEQA will focus on the interrelationship between the architecture or protocol we would like to perform, and the available hardware architecture (including noise sources and other imperfections, the 'topology' which means the question of which qubits can directly 'see' other qubits, and so on). Although quite a bit is known about this, there remain a great many questions within the two themes (a) "what algorithms can run well on my architecture?", and (b) "what architectures can my algorithm run on?"

Underpinning all this theoretical research, it will be vital to be able to test things out. The SEEQA project will have two kinds of provision: First, very efficient software that runs on conventional computers to 'pretend' to be quantum computers - exactly simulating them using the well-known laws of quantum physics. However it will only ever be possible to work with small emulated quantum computers because the quantum state is so complex. So it is vital that SEEQA also has access to real prototype quantum processors -- and as many as possible because they are various types. Fortunately SEEQA has multiple letters of support, offering resources approaching £500k, from pioneering UK hardware companies that have working quantum prototypes right now. They will make available their experts and their devices to SEEQA in order to help us to succeed.
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Organisation Website: http://www.ox.ac.uk