Quantum technology has become a hot topic in the global science and technology industry. Research institutions and technology corporations from different countries are actively investing in relevant research and development (R&D) efforts. Taiwan’s tech giant, Hon Hai (Foxconn) Technology Group, has established the Hon Hai Research Institute. One of its priorities is developing key techniques for quantum computing, thus targeting this epoch-making technology.
Min-Hsiu Hsieh, the director of the Quantum Computing Research Center of the Hon Hai Research Institute, agreed to an exclusive interview with the MOST Center for Global Affairs and Science Engagement. He shared how to grasp the opportunities of the booming quantum technology, from talent cultivation to scientific research, so that it can reach its height in the industry, just as the semiconductor industry did.
Hon Hai Research Institute’s Deployment of Quantum Technology
Many international technology corporations have their own specialized R&D institutions that combine foresight R&D with industrial applications. As the core technology R&D unit, Hon Hai Research Institute consists of five research centers: The Artificial Intelligence Research Center, Semiconductor Research Center, Next-generation Communications Research Center, Information Security Research Center, and Quantum Computing Research Center. The Hon Hai Research Institute is focusing on the R&D of foresight technology for the next three to seven years, thereby strengthening Hon Hai’s technology and product innovation, which allows the company to upgrade from labor-intensive work—characteristic of the past—to intelligence-intensive work.
Among the five research fields, quantum computing is a crucial research foundation for the computing power of the next generation. There is an international trend of investing in quantum computers. Many corporations and national research institutions have invested large amounts for funding and talent acquisition. The Hon Hai Research Institute engaged Professor Min-Hsiu Hsieh from the University of Technology Sydney (Australia) as the director of the Quantum Computing Research Center. Cultivating talent in quantum computing technology and actively exploring the fields of application are priorities for the center as it proactively prepares for the era of the quantum industry.
Min-Hsiu Hsieh said that the computing power of traditional computers has its limits. Because of the superposition and entanglement features, qubits can provide high-speed computing power. Therefore, quantum computing can be introduced into any field or industry that requires traditional computing power. For example, 5G’s ultra-high speed and low latency can carry various applications of the Artificial Internet of Things. If it is combined with the high power of quantum computing, the breakthrough development of complex big data applications is foreseeable.
Developing Taiwan’s Quantum Talent Base
Taiwan’s investment in quantum computing started relatively late. Therefore, talent cultivation is the top priority of the Hon Hai Research Institute. Min-Hsiu Hsieh noted that the goal of the research center is to achieve first-class research quality. The initial step is to establish an R&D team with international talent.
In addition to establishing an excellent R&D team, the Quantum Computing Research Center is also dedicated to industry-academia collaboration and cultivating young students. Schools that the center works with include National Taiwan University, National Central University, National Tsing Hua University, National Cheng Kung University, and National Taiwan Normal University. Currently, the Quantum Computing Research Center, Foxconn Educational Foundation, and Taipei City Government are working together to promote quantum technology, ensuring that high school textbooks contain content related to applicable topics and high school teachers are receiving needed training so that quantum technology education can take root.
Although quantum computers are not new, there are still many obstacles to overcome. Currently, quantum computers are not sufficiently stable and are susceptible to interference from the external environment, such as heat or electromagnetic radiation.
The processors have to be stored in an environment with a temperature of absolute zero (-273℃), making practical application difficult.
Min-Hsiu Hsieh said that in the mid to long term, the operation of quantum computers must still take place with that of traditional computers to improve the computing power. Therefore, the research center will focus on R&D in the key areas of the quantum computer, including the development of error correction mechanisms and a fault-tolerant quantum computing structure. Meanwhile, developing quantum software and establishing intellectual property rights should take place simultaneously.
Quantum Computing Combined with Taiwan’s High Technology Industry
Electric cars, digital health, and robots are the three major development topics of Foxconn. Min-Hsiu Hsieh stated that once quantum computer technology matures, its integration with the cloud system and AI, among other technologies, will improve its high-level computing power. Such progress will lead to significant improvement in the in-process inspection and supply chain management of the automobile industry and materials chemistry field.
Quantum computer software and hardware form a large ecosystem that aligns with the strengths of Taiwan’s high-tech industry. Min-Hsiu Hsieh believes that with Taiwan’s adequate information and communication talent pool, proper training in quantum computing must be one of the shortcuts for cultivating R&D talent in quantum technology software and hardware.
The semiconductor industry in Taiwan leads the world in its complete chain, ranging from design, manufacturing, and photomasks to packaging and testing. It is fully applicable to the integration of the quantum computer industry chain. Min-Hsiu Hsieh believes that Taiwan should take advantage of its competent semiconductor industry to develop high-end components of products related to quantum computers, thus improving the capacity for producing critical equipment in the quantum computer supply chain. With our exceptional talent and core technologies, he believes that Taiwan can get ahead of the game in the quantum computing industry.