SFU’s Quantum Algorithms Institute looks to turn excitement into action

First-of-its-kind facility is searching for partners who are ready to begin or accelerate their exploration of quantum-enabled technologies.

At QAI’s launch, from L-R: Rachna Singh, Bruce Ralston, Anita Huberman, Premier John Horgan, Garry Begg, Jagrup Brar, Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum, former SFU President Andrew Petter and Harry Bains. Photo: Greg Ehlers

SFU Surrey’s Quantum Algorithms Institute (QAI) is opening its doors to BC-based companies looking to explore or harness quantum technologies for their business.

Marjan Bagheri, QAI’s operations and engagement director, said the organization is “looking for corporate partners who want to work with us and influence the development of quantum-enabled solutions according to their own needs and specifications.” By bringing industry closer to researchers and startups, the organization is hoping to ensure the quantum algorithms developed in BC are aligned with the needs of the corporations which are most likely to use them. “It’s a win for all sides,” said Bagheri.

Founded in 2019 through a $17 million investment by the government of British Columbia, QAI’s mandate is to nurture a pipeline of talent in quantum information sciences for BC, to facilitate quantum research partnerships addressing real-world challenges in the public and private sectors, and to support the commercialization of quantum technology through co-developing quantum applications with industry partners.

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At the time of the announcement, the government said the funding was also part of a larger plan to promote the City of Surrey as a second Lower Mainland downtown. Making the announcement at SFU’s Surrey campus in 2019, BC Premier John Horgan said, “Creating an innovation corridor in Surrey and up the Fraser Valley will create good jobs, attract talent, reduce commute times and raise the standard of living.”

QAI initially is seeking companies located in BC ready to explore potential applications of quantum computing in structured, chemical and software engineering with its 50-plus quantum experts as well as university students and graduates at various levels of education and expertise.

“This is a critical time for businesses relative to the emergence of quantum computers,” said Brad Lackey, a senior quantum researcher at Microsoft and chair of the QAI board of directors. “Corporations that wait too long to begin their quantum transition may face significant headwinds. This is why QAI will give BC companies an advantage over other jurisdictions. QAI will help ensure a steady stream of highly skilled workers to enable businesses to make sense  of what’s coming and get ready to protect themselves and their customers.”

QAI invites BC-based companies in engineering and other related sectors to contact the organization about taking steps to leverage the power of quantum for their business. QAI says there will be minimal expense to the participating company at this initial stage.

“By working with the QAI, companies can get onboard with the next wave of cutting-edge technology that is capable of solving some of the world’s most complex problems,” said Ravi Kahlon, Minister of Jobs, Economic Recovery and Innovation.

In Budget 2021, the federal government earmarked $360 million over seven years for a National Quantum Strategy. In addition, last month, it announced a $2.2 million investment into QAI. As part of the announcement, Mélanie Joly, Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages and Minister responsible for Western Economic Diversification Canada said, “Quantum technology is a key field that will bring opportunities and talent into British Columbia.”

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