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About the FIRST program

The Funding Program for World-Leading Innovating R&D on Science and Technology (FIRST program) is a research funding policy part of the 2009 supplemental budget of the Japanese government. The FIRST program places high priority on an "operational support structure", making it possible for the core researchers to appoint an institution of his/her choice to support their research. The aim of the FIRST Program is to advance world leading research and development that will strengthen Japan’s international competitiveness in the mid to long term, while contributing to society and people’s welfare through the application of its results. Thirty projects out of a total of 565 applications (428 from universities) were selected in 2009. The Quantum Information Processing project was one of the selected projects.

Principal Investigator

Professor, National Institute of Informatics
Professor, Stanford University

Yoshihisa Yamamoto

Quantum information processing technology has been identified as one of the key national strategic goals in many countries, due to its expected future impact and wide potential for application. In the past, researchers in Japan have achieved a high standard of original research in their respective groups, but on a national scale there has been a lack of a strong research and development strategy. For their research efforts to unite to create an impact on a global scale, Japanese researchers have been in a rather disadvantaged situation compared to Europe and the United States. The question of whether Japan can contribute to the global tide of advancement on par with Europe and the United States is a critical national issue forming the foundation of information, communication, and energy technologies in the 21st century. One of the unique features of this field is that many of the experiments can be performed with relatively small "tabletop" research facilities. By pursuing highly imaginative approaches groups have been able to break down walls of impossibility, leading to the appearance of many unexpected applications.
Such unexpected technological applications are frequent throughout history. For example, the modern computer has its foundations in the deciphering device Colossus used to decode the German code ENIGMA during World War II. Another example is the use of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) in medical applications, which originated from fundamental studies of microwave radiation, particularly nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR). Finally, the invention of the optic fiber and the laser allowed for optical communication technology. The success of Japan taking a lead in the field of quantum information processing on a global scale depends critically on whether individual research groups and the talents of researchers can be integrated together on a national strategic level.
One of the characteristics of the field of quantum information processing is that the leading research is carried out by researchers who are experts in a broad range of scientific disciplines, going beyond quantum mechanics. For this reason, the education of young researchers that will advance this field in the future requires a considerable amount of time and resources. To achieve this goal, we have in the last 6 years organized four summer schools, contributing towards the education of a total of 250 young researchers. Following this initiative, these students formed regular Student Chapter meetings centered around Tokyo and Osaka, run independently by them. These efforts will be continued in the current project. Given a strong understanding of the fundamentals and the stimulation from a highly creative research environment, we expect these young researchers to be future leaders in not only the field of quantum information processing, but in a wide variety of scientific fields in Japan.


Laboratory head, RIKEN & Fellow, NEC

Tsai, Jaw Shen

Professor, Department of Applied Physics, The University of Tokyo


Research Support Coordinator

Research Professor, National Institute of Informatics
FIRST QIP Project, Research Support Coordinator

Kouichi Semba



March 1983 B.S. in physics, University of Tokyo.
March 1985 M.S. in physics, University of Tokyo
June 2002 D.E. in superconductivity, University of Tokyo

Professional Career

1985 Nippon Telegraph and Telephone corporation (NTT)
2002 - 2003 Visiting Researcher at Department of Applied physics, Delft University of Technology, The Netherlands
2003 - 2012 NTT Basic Research Laboratories, Superconducting Quantum Physics Research group, Group leader
2008 - 2012 Tokyo University of Science, Cooperation program between AIST and Graduate schools, Professor
May 2012 - Present Research Professor, National Institute of Informatics
FIRST QIP Project, Research Support Coordinator

Research Fields, themes

  • Condensed Matter Physics (Superconductivity), Solid State QuantumDevice, etc.


In this project, we will pursue research in the four fields of quantum metrology, optical clocks, quantum communication, and quantum information processing, all which employ quantum entanglement, one of the central concepts of quantum mechanics. Currently the main arena of research in these fields is in Europe and the United States. Our research efforts will build upon the high standard of original research conducted in Japan achieved in the past. In five years time, we aim to take a leading role in this field.

1. Quantum Metrology

The ability of measuring a single photon or a single spin lies at the heart of many quantum technologies. Up to this point, Japanese researchers have been able to achieve a high standard of research in this field. Japanese teams have also been able to take a leading role in the approach of using non-classical light (squeezed and entangled states) for the purpose of measuring extremely weak magnetic fields and the phase of light. We plan to integrate these individual technologies into a single quantum device, such that it can be used widely as a quantum technology, beyond the field of quantum metrology. By doing so we aim to firmly entrench Japan’s leadership in not only quantum metrology but in quantum technology as a whole.

2. Optical clocks

Accurate time standards for time form the foundation for broadband optical communication and GPS technology. It also allows the possibility of experiments exploring the foundations of physics connecting the two foundational pillars of modern science, quantum mechanics and relativity. The main candidate for exceeding the accuracy of Cesium atomic clocks used currently to define the second has been the ion trap clock, developed primarily in the United States. Meanwhile, the completely new concept of the optical lattice clock was proposed in Japan, and has within 5 years achieved the same accuracy as that achieved by the ion trap clock. We aim to make the next generation of time standards using technology developed in Japan.

3. Quantum communication

Currently there is a large amount of research aiming to realize quantum cryptography using single photons. The construction of a multi-party communication grid requiring unconditional security in high impact applications such as electronic voting and electronic auctions critically depends on the multi-party distribution of entangled states. Japan currently leads in the development of quantum memory which forms the key for the realization of this technology. We plan to pursue research in this field such that in five years time it can be shown that the construction of a quantum entanglement grid is technologically realizable, and necessary for the infrastructure of a future society.

4. Quantum computers/quantum simulators

Quantum computers come in two varieties, the digital quantum computer and the analogue quantum computer. Digital quantum computers are technologically extremely demanding, while analogue quantum computers are expected to be realized in the nearer future. Analogue quantum computation using Bose-Einstein condensates (BEC) are thought to be close to realization since the scheme does not require the control of individual quantum gates. It can also be applied to NP-complete problems such as the travelling salesman problem. We will undertake development of this unique idea, developed in Japan, such that in 5 years time it is a realizable technology.
Digital quantum computation, which requires the manipulation of individual qubits, is expected to have a larger impact in the long-term. We choose to discard methods that cannot be scaled up to a large number of qubits, and focus on the most promising systems with error correcting capabilities: superconducting and spin qubit systems. In contrast to quantum computers which can be viewed as a device to solve mathematical problems, quantum simulators are devices that simulate complex many-body problems. Quantum simulators are expected to hold the key to the advancement of condensed matter physics and the development of new materials. Quantum simulators are expected to be realized earlier than quantum computers. We aim to develop quantum simulators using three different systems with different characteristics: cold atoms, ions, and exciton-polaritons. From these three parallel approaches we aim to take a leading role in the field of quantum computing and quantum simulation.