A plan to create B.C.’s first quantum computing institute is being touted as a “visionary” project that will help position Surrey’s City Centre area as the region’s second downtown core.
The Quantum Algorithms Institute is being established at SFU’s Surrey campus, with the provincial government providing $17 million over five years to get the project up and running.
The new institute will work with universities throughout B.C. to “position the province as a world leader in this emerging field” and is a “key investment to grow the Surrey Innovation Corridor,” according to a government release.
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“Quantum computer solutions will help develop the innovations of tomorrow in sectors such as transportation and logistics, medical research, advanced design and materials testing,” said Surrey-Whalley MLA Bruce Ralston, Minister of Jobs, Trade and Technology. “Adoption across these sectors is predicted to surpass $450 billion annually. The new institute will train future data scientists who will attract companies worldwide, bringing significant benefit to B.C.’s economy.”
Ralston said quantum computing helps to solve problems that conventional computers “just can’t do.”
“If conventional computing is flipping a coin one side or the other, quantum computing is like spinning a coin where you are doing all of those calculations simultaneously. The result is the computing power that you have is dramatically increased millions of times.”
As for aiming to make City Centre the Lower Mainland’s second downtown core, Ralston said it’s “a long time coming.”
“It’s great to be able to… bring some reality and bring some further investment and raising of the profile of the opportunities in Surrey because they really are incredible and I’ve always thought that. I think I’ve managed to gather a little bit more momentum for the role of Surrey City Centre, both in the region and in the province.”
Premier John Horgan said that since Silicon Valley developed around San Francisco, an innovation sector can also develop around Vancouver in Surrey and the Fraser Valley.
“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,” said Premier John Horgan, who was at SFU Surrey Wednesday to make the funding announcement. “Working with our partners, we will create an innovation hub where companies and talent will cluster, supporting our goal of a strong, sustainable economy that benefits the entire province.”
The provincial government says the Quantum Algorithms Institute will “will draw on B.C.’s world-class research work and globally recognized companies and will develop a new graduate degree program in quantum computing.” It will also “help secure B.C.’s talent pool in quantum computing and support technological advances that will benefit every sector of the economy.”
A government release describes quantum computing as “an emerging technology that uses quantum mechanics to improve the ability to solve problems at a much faster rate than conventional computers and does so using far less energy.”
While conventional computers store information using bits represented by zeroes or ones, quantum computers use quantum bits, or “qubits,” to encode information as zeroes, ones or both at the same time, allowing for much faster computational time.
There is already work being done in the field at SFU, UBC and UVIC, and several B.C. companies are commercially active in quantum computing, such as D-Wave, 1Qbit, Fujitsu, IBM and Microsoft. Although, the technology is largely still pre-commercial.
The provincial government says B.C. is “working to be the jurisdiction that helps advance quantum computing from research through to transformative technology.”
Andrew Petter, SFU’s president and vice-chancellor, said the announcement makes “Bing Thom’s dream, tomorrow’s reality.” Thom was the man behind Surrey’s City Centre transformation.
“He believed that combining a research university with an office tower and a shopping mall would start the process of transforming this area from a struggling suburb as it then was, to a dynamic city centre as it is now on its way to becoming,” Petter said.
The Quantum Algorithm Institute being established at SFU Surrey will draw on the talents and capacities of B.C.’s universities… because we will be working as universities in partnership with government and industry to help establish this province as a leader in quantum computing technologies.”
Mayor Doug McCallum said Surrey’s City Centre area has established itself as a “hub for innovation and higher learning.”
“Our location, along with our expertise and experience make Surrey the ideal place to advance technology and innovation in the province,” McCallum added. “City council and I look forward to working closely with the B.C. government to expedite this visionary project that will benefit not only the people of Surrey, but all who call B.C. home.”
The creation of the institute was based on goals outlined in the Tech and Innovation Policy Framework and the provincial government says it’s “one of the many ways B.C. will be investing to grow the Surrey Innovation Corridor.”
Meantime, the Downtown Surrey Business Improvement Association has released a vision project and survey asking residents to help shape City Centre’s future.
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Through the survey, the BIA will use the information to “help vision the future of downtown Surrey,” and to “highlight ideas that can be implemented” by the City of Surrey, the BIA, other stakeholders and community members.
DSBIA Chair Bill Cunningham previously told the Now-Leader that Surrey has the opportunity to build out its downtown core, “something that as far as downtowns go, is relatively young.”
“We want it to be a place that people across Surrey in particular, but really the Fraser Valley in general, that when you say, ‘I’m going downtown,’ you’re not just automatically assuming that means downtown Vancouver to see a show. We are building our own downtown here,” he said.
With the survey and vision project, Cunningham said it’s not meant to “duplicate or replace” downtown Vancouver, but it presents an opportunity to have a “little bit of that fresh palette.”