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FRANKFURT (Reuters) - IBM is joining forces with a German research institute to explore the potential of quantum computing in a project that the government in Berlin will back to the tune of 650 million euros ($717 million) over two years.

FILE PHOTO: A man stands near an IBM logo at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, February 25, 2019. REUTERS/Sergio Perez/File Photo

The German government’s backing, sealed at a meeting on Tuesday between Chancellor Angela Merkel and IBM CEO Ginni Rometty, comes as Europe’s largest economy seeks to catch up to the United States and China in a global technology race.

IBM said it would install a Q System One quantum computer at one of its facilities in Germany, partnering with the Fraunhofer Gesellschaft - an applied research institute - to build a research effort and community around it.

Quantum computers could operate millions of times faster than today’s advanced supercomputers.

The technology is based on quantum bits, or qubits, that can be ‘superposed’ on each other, exponentially increasing the amount of information that can be processed. IBM’s current Q System One machine has 20 qubits.

“This effort is poised to be a major catalyst for Europe’s innovation landscape and research capabilities,” Martin Jetter, senior vice president and chairman of IBM Europe, said in a statement.

Developing viable quantum computers has proved to be hugely challenging because they rely on superconductivity that can only be achieved in a controlled environment in which temperatures are held close to absolute zero.

Any instability in the qubits can lead to “noise” that disrupts computing.

The IBM Q System One, launched in January, has so far been deployed primarily in a research setting but the company - which has branched into cloud computing and

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