The search engine giant Baidu is retiring quantum computing by donating its quantum computing department to the Beijing Academy of Quantum Information Sciences (BAQIS), a government-run research institute. According to reports, Baidu and BAQIS are currently in the final stages of the details for the transfer.
Baidu began establishing its quantum computing facilities in 2018, at the time declaring its goals to become a global leader in quantum computing research within the next five years. The company’s main focus was on areas like quantum AI, algorithms, and architecture.
In 2022, Baidu unveiled its first quantum computer, with 10 superconducting qubits. It later developed a 36-qubit quantum chip and built out other quantum infrastructure, including a “quantum operating system,” and a cloud-based quantum machine learning platform.
Alibaba Made a Similar Move
Baidu’s decision echoes a similar withdrawal by the popular Chinese e-commerce leader Alibaba. The company handed over its quantum computing lab to Zhejiang University last November. Alibaba has spent over $12 billion on quantum technology research for over a decade. The company’s 30 quantum researchers will reportedly stay at Zhejiang University. Alibaba said its aims were now to concentrate more on AI, using its applications in sectors like agriculture and healthcare.
Shift Points to Greater Government Control
Although the reasons for Baidu and Alibaba’s sudden quantum exits remain unclear, especially given the long-term timeline for commercial quantum products, refocusing on the nearer-term AI applications could be a business decision. However, since both companies donated their labs to government institutions, the move may suggest the Chinese government wants tighter control over the country’s quantum progress.