The quest for quantum computing supremacy is a geopolitical priority for Europe, China, Canada, Australia and the United States. Boston Consulting Group’s 2018 report that estimates a quantum computing market of nearing $60 billion in 2035, which would grow further to $295 billion in 2050, which explains why nations, corporates and startups alike are all jockeying for first position. Advantage gained by acquiring the first computer that renders all other computers obsolete would be enormous and bestow economic, military and public health advantages to the winner.
The January 2019 Worldwide Threat Assessment report to the Senate conceded the United States’ lead in science and technology had been significantly eroded, mainly because of Chinese gains. Over the past two years, China has aggressively stepped up its pace of quantum research. In 2016, President Xi Jinping established a national strategy for China to become technologically self-reliant. One of China’s main goals is to surpass the United States and to become the global high-tech leader.
President Xi funded a multi-billion-dollar quantum computing mega-project with the expectation of achieving significant quantum breakthroughs by 2030. He also committed billions to establish a Chinese National Laboratory for Quantum Information Sciences. This center may eventually become a global hub for quantum research and a magnet for future quantum research talent.
In 2018, China had nearly twice as many patent filings as the United States for quantum technology overall, a category that includes communications and cryptology devices, according to market research firm Patinformatics. The United States, though, leads the world in patents relating to the most prized segment of the field — quantum computers — thanks to heavy investment by IBM, Google, Microsoft and others.
Chinese quantum developments
Helping oversee China’s program is Pan, whom Chinese media call the “father of quantum.” From his labs at the University of Science and Technology of China (USTC), in Shanghai and Hefei, the 49-year-old leads a team of 130 researchers. In 2017, the journal Nature named him one of “ten people who mattered this year,” saying he had “lit a fire under the country’s efforts in quantum technology.”
- Long-distance communication via entanglement: China created a record-breaking communications link using entangled particles between satellites and an earth station. Pan and his team are aiming to launch a constellation of satellites and a nationwide fiber-optic network that use qubits to securely transmit information. An almost 1,300-mile fiber link connecting Beijing, Shanghai and other cities is already up and running. So is a satellite China launched in 2016, which has conducted several prominent experiments, including facilitating a hacking-resistant video conference between Beijing and Vienna.
- Potential threat: Quantum communications are virtually tamper-proof. However, quantum computers will eventually be able to break current RSA encryption. China will likely transition its military telecommunications to the quantum networks, making it difficult for the United States to maintain its present level of surveillance.
- Quantum radar: A Chinese company, Electronic Technology Group Corporation, claims it has developed quantum radar. Like most quantum applications, quantum radar is still experimental.
- Potential Threat: Once fully developed, quantum radar could threaten the US lead in stealth technology. That translates into the increased vulnerability of US stealth aircraft such as the B-2 Spirit, F-22 Raptor, F-35 Lightning II, and allied stealth aircraft. Quantum radar might also be able to determine the type of aircraft or the weapons the plane is carrying. It could also compromise US domination over the electromagnetic domain in combat environments.
- Submarine Detection: Scientists at the Chinese National Academy of Science announced the development of a quantum submarine detector based on an array of sensors known as SQUIDs (Superconducting Quantum Interference Device). SQUIDs are very sensitive. They can monitor the brainwaves of a mouse or detect electron emissions from deep space hydrogen molecules. A fully functional SQUID array is estimated to have the ability to detect a submarine five or six kilometers away. A Chinese language website, Sina.com, called an airborne version of this technology the “Submarine Star of Death.”
- Potential Threat: Increased vulnerability and limitations on the range, scope, and effectiveness of US nuclear-powered attack submarines and NATO submarines.
Quantum computer could in several decades be powerful enough to break the codes of today’s best cryptography. If the United States fails to develop a similarly strong quantum infrastructure, all of today’s protected data could be at risk. This includes military data that would directly impact operational security (OPSEC), which is the critical communications in any military mission. The United States Department of Defense has requisitioned $899 million for computer science research. While this research focuses largely on quantum computing, the requested amount is only .000046% of the total gross domestic product (GDP).
However, thanks to investments by our tech giants— IBM , Google , and Microsoft —the United States has maintained its lead in quantum computing. In 2018, IBM obtained more patents than any other U.S. company. Almost half of its patents were for leading-edge technologies such as artificial intelligence, quantum computing and blockchain. Google recently achieved quantum supremacy by solving a problem in 200 seconds that would take a classical computer 10,000 years to solve.
Scott Aaronson is the David J. Bruton Centennial Professor of Computer Science at The University of Texas at Austin, and director of its Quantum Information Center. In an email to Moor Insights & Strategy, he said, “I think that China is ahead of the US right now in quantum communications, simply because they decided to invest a lot in that area while the US decided not to. I think that the US retains a strong lead in quantum computation with other important centers being Canada, the UK, the EU, Australia, Singapore, Israel.”
The US declares quantum as a critical technology
In Nov 2021, US recognized quantum as a “critical technology” this week by the federal government, which pledged to develop and protect it as one of nine priority technologies identified for more state support and national security scrutiny.
Quantum computing, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity services and autonomous vehicles will come under increased government scrutiny, particularly around foreign interference, as part of the federal government’s new critical technologies framework and action plan.
Australia and the United States have signed a formal cooperation agreement on quantum technology, pledging to work together on enhancing each country’s quantum industry through knowledge sharing and regular policy meetings between senior officials.
It outlines an intent for the two countries to partner on quantum, including research and building a “trusted global quantum marketplace and the necessary secure supply chain through the engagement of the private sector and industry consortia”.
It also states Australia and the US will protect “sensitive” quantum technologies which have national security implications. The areas of cooperation will be achieved by elevating quantum in bilateral arrangements and convening regular meetings of senior government officials in a “Quantum Policy Dialogue”, the details of which are yet to be determined.
US National Quantum Initiative Act (NQI)
In December 2018, President Trump signed H.R. 6227 to fund the National Quantum Initiative Act (NQI). The law authorizes $1.2 billion to be invested in quantum information science over five years. NQI funding will go to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), National Science Foundation (NSF) Multidisciplinary Centers for Quantum Research and Education and to the Department of Energy Research and National Quantum Information Science Research Centers.
After President Trump signed the NQI, he followed up with an executive order to establish a National Quantum Initiative Advisory Committee composed of 22 experts from industry, research and federal agencies. The committee will meet at least twice a year to provide advice on our quantum activities.
The U.S. Department of Energy said in August 2020 that it will provide $625 million over the next five years for five newly formed quantum information research hubs as it tries to keep ahead of competing nations like China on the emerging technology. The funding is part of $1.2 billion earmarked in the National Quantum Initiative Act in 2018. US passed National Quantum Initiative Act bill in Sep 2018, would establish a federal program for accelerating research and training in quantum computing. The act will release $1.275 billion to help fund several centers of excellence that should help train many quantum engineers. Monroe, Christopher said the new national plan should help the US compete internationally. China is pouring billions of dollars into its own quantum computing projects.
“The infrastructure required, the hardware, the personnel, is way too expensive for anyone to go in it alone,” said Prineha Narang, a Harvard University assistant professor of computational materials science. By investing more in basic discovery and training—as the House-passed National Quantum Initiative Act would do—Narang said the U.S. could expand the ranks of scientists and engineers who build quantum computers and then find commercial applications for them.
Recent US legislation will authorize the Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) to create new research centers at universities, federal laboratories, and nonprofit research institutes, according to a committee spokesperson. These research hubs would aim to build alliances between physicists doing fundamental research, engineers who can build devices, and computer scientists developing quantum algorithms. The centers could give academics seeking to develop commercial technologies access to expertise and expensive research tools, says physicist David Awschalom of the University of Chicago in Illinois, one of the blueprint’s authors. “The research needs rapidly outpace any individual lab,” he says.
The blueprint recommends that the hubs focus on three areas: developing ultraprecise quantum sensors for biomedicine, navigation, and other applications; hack-proof quantum communication; and quantum computers. UK strategy also builds on technology hubs. In order to begin the transition from science to technology and to build clusters of activity with industry, EPSRC has invested £120 million in a national network of quantum technology hubs. These are led by the universities of Birmingham, Glasgow, York and Oxford. Each of the quantum hubs is investing in incubator spaces for new businesses, and public funding will be available to develop the facilities – such as in nano-fabrication and high-value electronic production – that companies can use to develop these new devices.
The new strategic plan aims to strengthen America’s quantum ecosystem by developing a diverse, inclusive, and sustainable workforce
OSTP’s NQCO and NSF released the National Strategic Plan for Quantum Information Science and Technology Workforce Development. A product of the National Science and Technology Council Subcommittee on Quantum Information Science (SCQIS), the plan recommends a series of actions and community opportunities to grow the QIST workforce through expanded training and education at all levels. It also highlights the continued importance of gathering data on the workforce needs in industry, academia, and the federal government, and of developing long-term learning opportunities to expand and broaden the pool of talent and ensure the QIST workforce represents all of America.
The plan will help guide QIST workforce efforts in the coming years as the Federal government works to strengthen the pool of quantum-ready workers.
“Our future prosperity depends on expanding the capacity of our Nation to inspire, educate, train, and empower the next generation of talent,” said National Quantum Coordination Office Director and OSTP Assistant Director for Quantum Information Science (QIS) Dr. Charles Tahan. “The career opportunities in quantum and related fields are immense, and we are thrilled to work with NSF, industry, and educational institutions in the National Quantum Initiative and Q-12 Partnership to reach more young people.”
“To accelerate growth in quantum science and engineering, we must continue to institutionalize and scale efforts that create a culture of creativity and inclusivity, one that empowers people from all backgrounds and disciplines to pursue quantum careers,” said NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan. “The Q12 Partnership has charted a path forward for nurturing quantum expertise from across the United States, and today, that path advances from exploration to rapid action. Alongside today’s release of the National Strategic Plan for QIST Workforce Development, NSF is announcing a new program, ExpandQISE, to provide sustained support for researchers developing new ways to cultivate and diversify the U.S. quantum workforce.”
National Quantum Information Science Research Centers
The U.S. Department of Energy is establishing five new National Quantum Information Science Research Centers, including a center led by Argonne National Laboratory and a center led by Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, which are each projected to receive $115 million in funding over the next five years. Both laboratories are affiliated with the University of Chicago. The centers, which the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy announced on Aug. 26, are intended to foster transformational breakthroughs in quantum information science and related technology—bringing together world-leading experts and top-tier facilities in support of the National Quantum Initiative.
The Q-NEXT center, led by Argonne, brings together national laboratories, universities including the University of Chicago, and leading U.S. technology companies with the single goal of developing the science and technology to control and distribute quantum information. With 22 partners, it will create two national foundries for quantum materials, develop networks of sensors and secure communications systems, establish simulation and network testbeds, and train a next-generation, quantum-ready workforce to ensure U.S. scientific and economic leadership in this rapidly advancing field.
The Fermilab-led center, called the Superconducting Quantum Materials and Systems Center or SQMS, aims to build and deploy a beyond-state-of-the-art quantum computer based on superconducting technologies. The center also will develop new quantum sensors, which could lead to the discovery of the nature of dark matter and other elusive subatomic particles. The center will include 20 partners, including national labs, universities and industry.
“The Department of Energy is proud to be in partnership with a significant breadth of participants to support Quantum Information Science Centers around the country, and by allocating generous contributions from these participants we can continue to further scientific discovery through quantum technologies,” said Under Secretary for Science Paul Dabbar. “Our nation continues to lead in the development of industries of the future, and these five centers will marshal the full strength of our national laboratories, universities, and our public and private sector partnerships.”
The University of Chicago manages Argonne for the Department of Energy through UChicago Argonne, LLC and Fermilab together with the Universities Research Association, Inc. through the Fermi Research Alliance. A quantum race is underway as multiple nations compete to produce breakthroughs. The Chicago area has emerged as a leading hub of quantum research—home to two national laboratories, the University of Chicago’s Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering, and other world-class academic institutions, and a number of industry leaders.
Scientists from Argonne and the University of Chicago achieved a major breakthrough in February when they successfully entangled photons across a 52-mile “quantum loop” in the Chicago suburbs, establishing one of the longest land-based quantum networks in the nation. That network will soon be connected to Fermilab, establishing a three-node, 80-mile test bed. In July, the Department of Energy came to the University of Chicago to unveil a blueprint for quantum research in the next decades.
“This is one of the most exciting developments for the economic vitality and prestige of our state. I could not be more delighted that Illinois will be home to not one, but two of the five quantum research centers in the U.S.— opening the newest chapter in the storied history of scientific and technological innovation in the state of Illinois,” said Governor J.B. Pritzker. “Our outstanding ecosystem of world-class academic institutions, national labs, Fortune 500 companies and tech startups has changed the world before, and it is poised to do so again. With our state’s investment in science and technology alongside the university and the Department of Energy, we lay the groundwork for scientific achievements that will shape Illinois, the nation—and the globe—for decades to come.”
“True breakthroughs in an area as challenging as quantum networking can only come from a powerful network itself—of partnerships and collaborations among colleges and universities, national labs, incubators and industry—and there is no better place in the nation than right here in Chicago,” said Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot. “This impressive network is possible thanks to the creativity, strength and resolve of our residents, so many of whom make it their mission to use their expertise to improve communities both within Chicago and beyond. These scientific innovations of tomorrow are built on the investments of today, and with these two centers, Chicago is poised to lay a foundation of knowledge and technology for the future.”
“Illinois has been a longtime leader in understanding the science and developing the technology to move our country forward. With Argonne National Laboratory, the University of Chicago, and Fermilab behind them, I know our researchers will bring us significant breakthroughs in quantum technology,” said U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL). “The Department of Energy made an excellent choice in supporting and basing two of its quantum centers in Illinois and partnering with some of the best universities in the nation to begin the next generation of quantum innovation.”
“Chicago is home to some of the largest collaborative teams working on quantum science in the world, and this is a major step forward for developing critical new applications that will have significant impact in the future,” said Robert J. Zimmer, president of the University of Chicago. “These centers will help to build a foundation of knowledge, to speed discovery, and particularly at the University of Chicago, to educate a workforce of quantum engineers for the future.” “This is a major step forward for developing critical new applications that will have significant impact in the future, ” said University of Chicago President Robert J. Zimmer.
Q-NEXT led by Argonne National Laboratory to produce standardized Quantum materials and devices
Q-NEXT, led by Argonne National Laboratory, aims to boost rapid commercialization of new technologies to support the emerging “quantum economy.” “The world is on the cusp of a technological revolution. Through the collaborative efforts of the national laboratories, universities and companies actively involved in Q-NEXT, we will develop instrumentation to explore and control the quantum properties of matter, and translate these discoveries into technologies that benefit society,” said David Awschalom, Q-NEXT director, senior scientist at Argonne, the Liew Family Professor of Molecular Engineering and Physics at the University of Chicago, and director of the Chicago Quantum Exchange, which convenes partners around Chicagoland to further quantum research. “This partnership is essential to create a domestic supply chain of new quantum materials and devices for a robust quantum economy.”
Q-NEXT will also create two national foundries for quantum materials—one at Argonne and one at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. Together, these foundries will act as a single “quantum factory,” producing a robust supply chain of standardized materials and devices that will support both known and yet-to-be-discovered quantum-enabled applications. It will also create a first-ever National Quantum Devices Database for the standardization of next-generation quantum devices.
“New technology spawned by Q-NEXT will accelerate U.S. prosperity and security,” said Argonne Director Paul Kearns. “As part of the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, Argonne is proud to be the lead laboratory for Q-NEXT in this important endeavor bringing together world-leading experts and the wealth of scientific resources at national labs, academia, and industry.”
Q-NEXT will be funded by the Department of Energy at $115 million over five years, with $15 million this year and outyear funding contingent on congressional appropriations. Additional funding from partner organizations totals $93 million to further drive the research effort. The State of Illinois General Assembly also directed $200 million through HB62 split equally between the University of Chicago and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to develop quantum infrastructure for the Chicago Quantum Exchange, which will support Q-NEXT through collaborative efforts. With these resources and the strength of private-public partnerships, Q-NEXT will focus on three core quantum technologies.
These include communication for the transmission of quantum information across long distances, such as quantum repeaters enabling the establishment of “unhackable” networks for information transfer; sensors that achieve unprecedented sensitivities with transformational applications in physics, materials, and life sciences; and creating “test beds” both for quantum simulators and future full-stack universal quantum computers with applications in quantum simulations, cryptanalysis and logistics optimization
Q-NEXT will also train the next-generation quantum workforce through innovative training programs with industry, academia, and government to ensure continued U.S. scientific and economic leadership in this rapidly advancing field. The University of Chicago intends to explore workforce partnerships with City Colleges.
The University also aims to develop a robust set of initiatives, in partnership with Q-NEXT and local leaders, to develop innovative educational pathways, workforce development strategies, and local economic development opportunities to ensure South Side residents are prepared for and can benefit from these scientific breakthroughs.
The other national laboratories involved are SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. The University of Chicago is a partner along with nine other universities: California Institute of Technology; Cornell University; Northwestern University; Penn State University; Stanford University; University of California, Santa Barbara; University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; University of Minnesota; and University of Wisconsin-Madison. Ten companies are also official partners: Applied Materials, IBM, Boeing, Intel, ColdQuanta, Keysight Technologies, General Atomics, Microsoft, HRL Laboratories and Quantum Opus.
Quantum computing and sensing at Fermilab’s SQMS
At the heart of Fermilab’s Superconducting Quantum Materials and Systems Center research will be solving one of the most pressing problems in quantum information science: The length of time that a qubit—the basic element of a quantum computer—can maintain information, also called quantum coherence. Understanding and mitigating sources of decoherence that limit performance of quantum devices is critical to engineering in next-generation quantum computers and sensors.
“Unless we address and overcome the issue of quantum system decoherence, we will not be able to build quantum computers that solve new, complex and important problems. The same applies to quantum sensors with the range of sensitivity needed to address long-standing questions in many fields of science,” said Anna Grassellino, director of the SQMS Center, senior scientist and deputy chief technology officer at Fermilab. “Overcoming this crucial limitation would allow us to have a great impact in the life sciences, biology, medicine, and national security, and enable measurements of incomparable precision and sensitivity in basic science.”
The SQMS Center’s ambitious goals in computing and sensing are driven by Fermilab’s achievement of world-leading coherence times in components called superconducting cavities, which were developed for particle accelerators used in Fermilab’s particle physics experiments. To advance the coherence even further, SQMS collaborators will launch a materials-science investigation of unprecedented scale to gain insights into the fundamental limiting mechanisms of cavities and qubits, working to understand the quantum properties of superconductors and other materials used at the nanoscale and in the microwave regime.
SQMS funding will be $115 million over five years from the Department of Energy, with $15 million this year and outyear funding contingent on congressional appropriations. SQMS will receive an additional $8 million in matching contributions from partner organizations. “With Argonne National Laboratory, the University of Chicago, and Fermilab behind them, I know our researchers will bring us significant breakthroughs in quantum technology,” said Senator Dick Durbin. The collaboration brings together world-leading expertise in all key aspects: from identifying qubits’ quality limitations at the nanometer scale to fabrication and scale-up capabilities into multi-qubit quantum computers to exploration of new applications enabled by quantum computers and sensors.
“Fermilab is excited to host this National Quantum Information Science Research Center and work with this extraordinary network of collaborators,” said Nigel Lockyer, director of Fermilab. “This initiative aligns with Fermilab and its mission. It will help us answer important particle physics questions, and at the same time, we will contribute to advancements in quantum information science with our strengths in particle accelerator technologies, such as superconducting radio-frequency devices and cryogenics.”
The center includes Fermilab and core partners Northwestern University, Rigetti Computing, Ames Laboratory and NASA Ames Research Center, as well as contributing partners Colorado School of Mines, Goldman Sachs, Illinois Institute of Technology, the Italian National Institute for Nuclear Physics, Janis Research, Johns Hopkins University, Lockheed Martin, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Stanford University, Temple University, Unitary Fund, University of Arizona, University of Colorado Boulder, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and University of Padova, Italy.
The University of Arizona will lead a new National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center, called the Center for Quantum Networks, with core partners Harvard, MIT and Yale.
The University of Arizona will receive an initial, five-year, $26 million grant from the National Science Foundation, with an additional five-year $24.6 million option, to establish and lead a new National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center – called the Center for Quantum Networks – with core partners Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Yale University.
CQN aims to lay the foundations of the quantum internet, which will revolutionize how humankind computes, communicates and senses the world, by creating a fabric to connect quantum computers, data centers and gadgets using their native quantum information states of “quantum bits,” or qubits. Qubits offer dramatic increases in processing capacity by not just having the 0 or 1 state of the classical bit, but also allowing what is termed a “superposition” of both states at the same time.
“The University of Arizona has been fortunate to attract key talent in quantum optics, materials and information sciences,” said University of Arizona President Robert C. Robbins. “It is rewarding to see our deep culture of collaboration across campus naturally position us to lead this extremely ambitious project in partnership with amazing institutions across the nation.” In February, the White House National Quantum Coordination Office underscored the importance of the field by issuing “A Strategic Vision for America’s Quantum Networks.” The document stated, “By leading the way in quantum networking, America is poised to revolutionize national and financial security, patient privacy, drug discovery, and the design and manufacturing of new materials, while increasing our scientific understanding of the universe.
“The transformation of today’s internet through quantum technology will spur entirely new tech industries and create an innovation ecosystem of quantum devices and components, service providers and applications. The potential impact of CQN is so immense, it is almost incalculable,” notes Saikat Guha, CQN director and principal investigator and associate professor of optical sciences. “What we are proposing to do with CQN is analogous to the critical role played by the ARPANET, the historical precursor to the internet. The pioneering scientists behind the ARPANET could not have possibly imagined the kind of computing, communications and mobile networking capabilities their discoveries would inspire and enable, and CQN aspires to follow in their footsteps to usher the world into the era of quantum networking.”
The team at the University of Arizona is led by the James C. Wyant College of Optical Sciences and includes the College of Engineering, the James E. Rogers College of Law and the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. “In recent years, the university has focused heavily on quantum engineering, increasing the breadth and depth of our expertise by hiring – across several colleges – six additional faculty members specializing in quantum technologies,” said Elizabeth “Betsy” Cantwell, University of Arizona senior vice president for research and innovation. “With the strength and innovative approaches of these researchers and our strong culture of industry partnerships to translate cutting-edge technologies to the market, CQN will make significant strides towards ushering in a new era of quantum networking at market scale.”
CQN also includes scientific and educational leaders at core partners Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Yale University, in addition to those at Brigham Young University, Howard University, Northern Arizona University, the University of Massachusetts Amherst, the University of Oregon and the University of Chicago.
A major focus of the CQN team will be research to advance quantum materials and devices, quantum and classical processing required at a network node, and quantum network protocols and architectures. CQN also aims to demonstrate the first U.S.-based quantum network that can distribute quantum information at high speeds, over long distances, to multiple user groups. “As one of the key goals of CQN, we will be creating a versatile Quantum Network Testbed and making it available as a national resource to validate system performance and boost innovation by the scientific and industrial communities alike,” said Zheshen Zhang, CQN Testbed co-lead and assistant professor of materials science and engineering.
As part of the National Science Foundation’s fourth generation of the ERC program, CQN has a mandate to not only develop the technology, but also drive convergent outcomes across science, law, policy and society, within a strong culture of inclusion. “CQN has been designed to both stimulate and learn from societal impacts research examining the benefits and risks of quantum networking. This research will be informed by our CQN applications road map developed in concert with CQN industry partners, and will provide valuable insights to guide public policy recommendations, enhance our educational programs, and ensure that the economic and social benefits of quantum networking are shared equitably across society,” said Jane Bambauer, CQN co-deputy director and professor in the James E. Rogers College of Law.
CQN will be investing strongly in Engineering Workforce Development, led by professor Allison Huff, director of CQN’s EWD program and assistant professor in the College of Medicine – Tucson. CQN will define the necessary core competencies of quantum engineers, not only providing them with the necessary technical tools but teaching them to be adaptive, creative innovators in a globally connected world. This will include raising student awareness with curriculum and projects involving policy, law and societal impacts led by Bambauer and Catherine Brooks, director of the School of Information and associate professor in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. This EWD program will also develop one of the world’s first Master of Science programs in quantum information science and engineering, initially offered at the University of Arizona and later expanded to the CQN core partners. In its commitment to inclusion, CQN will also enhance the talent pipeline by offering student opportunities and participation across all CQN university partners, and working to nurture more broadly the particularly strong STEM outreach from CQN partners at Howard University and NAU.
CQN will also be charged with providing value creation to America’s economy under its Innovation Ecosystem program led by Justin Walker, CQN’s innovation director and associate dean for business development and administration at the Wyant College of Optical Sciences. Just as was the case with today’s internet, quantum networking technologies show great promise for U.S. economic development. In addition to the nine university research partners, a large innovation ecosystem of over 10 companies and the potential of $2 billion of venture capital has been cultivated during the proposal process. A key component of CQN’s Innovation Ecosystem is a partnership with the Quantum Economic Development Consortium, a National Institute of Standards and Technology-led consortium aimed to form a functional bridge between quantum information science and engineering researchers and the industry. CQN’s industry partnerships will also play a valuable role in defining application road maps to inform CQN’s technical direction and research investments.
“For the last 35 years, engineering research centers have helped shape science and technology in the United States by fostering innovation and collaboration among industry, universities and government agencies,” said NSF Director Dr. Sethuraman Panchanathan. “As we kick off a new generation of centers, NSF will continue to work with its partners to ensure the success of these collaborative enterprises and the transformative, convergent research impact they produce.”
This is the third ERC led by the University of Arizona. The other two are the ERC for Environmentally Benign Semiconductor Manufacturing, led by the College of Engineering, and the Center for Integrated Access Networks, led by the Wyant College of Optical Sciences. CQN will be bolstered by the Wyant College’s recent endowments – including the largest faculty endowment gift in the history of the University of Arizona – and the planned construction of the new Grand Challenges Research Building, supported by the state of Arizona.
University of Minnesota to lead NSF-funded ‘Global Quantum Leap’
The University of Minnesota announced in Oct 2020 that it will lead a five-year, $2 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to create an international “network-of-networks” that seeks to accelerate the discovery and development of quantum information systems. Quantum sciences are key to creating the next generation of computing and communications systems.
The project, which is called Global Quantum Leap (GQL), will create a close link between nanofabrication and quantum technology, a connection that so far has been lagging and that will require a worldwide effort. The GQL will bring together key nodes within the NSF-supported National Nanotechnology Coordinated Infrastructure (NNCI) and complementary networks of researchers in the United States and worldwide working on quantum information sciences through workshops, research exchanges, and educational bootcamps. The network will be led by University of Minnesota Professor Steven Koester, the Louis John Schnell Professor in Electrical and Computer Engineering in the University’s College of Science and Engineering.
“Quantum information technology is going to have a profound effect on society in the coming decades,” Koester said. “The GQL will play a key role in ensuring the infrastructure and workforce are ready for this transition. We are looking forward to working with our international partners in tackling the fundamental changes in nano-manufacturing required to make the quantum revolution a reality.”
Quantum technology has the potential to change society in profound ways by enabling solutions to computational problems inaccessible using conventional methods. However, quantum technology is still in its infancy, and is reflective of the status of semiconductor technology from the early 1960s. A fully mature quantum technology will take decades to realize and will require a coordinated worldwide effort across many disciplines, including physics, chemistry, materials science, electrical engineering and computer science.
The NSF award includes co-principal investigators located at four of the NNCI nodes: University of Minnesota Assistant Professor Vlad Pribiag (School of Physics and Astronomy); Cornell Professor Christopher Ober (Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology); Dr. Quinn Spadola, Georgia Tech (Institute for Electronics and Nanotechnology); and University of Chicago Professor Andrew Cleland (Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering). The GQL project is also supported by numerous collaborators at other U.S. universities, including the University of Washington, Harvard University, North Carolina State, Duke University, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Syracuse University.
The GQL will link together research networks focused on nano-manufacturing and quantum information to advance the scientific knowledge required to make manufacturable quantum technologies a reality. At the same time, the project will also train a new generation of researchers who use global quantum resources. This training will occur through a series of international meetings, workshops, structured and individual research exchanges, educational bootcamps, and industry interactions designed to bridge the existing knowledge gaps. “I believe this broad support represents an acknowledgement of the importance of quantum technology and the substantial impact that the GQL is poised to make,” Koester said.
The network also includes several international partners including the Nanoplatform Japan (NPJ), the Matter and Light for Quantum Computing (ML4Q) network in Germany, the European OpenSuperQ, and the Chicago Quantum Exchange (CQE), which is based in the U.S. and includes partners in the Netherlands and Australia. “Even though increasing commercialization tends to build walls in many respects, quantum technology is still a global and major scientific challenge that is best addressed in a cooperative way. I am looking forward to a transatlantic cooperation,” said Dr. Hendrik Bluhm, site representative of ML4Q for RWTH Aachen University and Director of the JARA-Institute for Quantum Information.
By linking these networks, GQL will lay the foundation to develop a globally-aware workforce that can shape future innovations in quantum technology and will fundamentally influence the overall trajectory for quantum manufacturing development. The knowledge exchange facilitated by GQL will also be utilized by the NNCI to inform decisions on new equipment and processes that will aid the academic and industrial quantum community.
Mid-Atlantic Quantum Alliance organized by University of Maryland
The Mid-Atlantic Quantum Alliance—a rapidly growing hub of quantum technology research, development, innovation and education organized and facilitated by the University of Maryland—has added 10 new members over the past year for a total of 24 university, government and industry partners. Together these MQA members are building a vibrant and diverse ecosystem designed to foster U.S. and regional leadership in the coming quantum technology revolution.
The new members of the Mid-Atlantic Quantum Alliance (MQA) are: the National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST), IBM, Protiviti, Quantopo, Quaxys, Bowie State University, Georgetown University, Pittsburgh Quantum Institute, University of Delaware, and Virginia Tech.
The additions expand the power, diversity, and geographical coverage of an already strong consortium of quantum scientists and engineers in academia, national laboratories, and industry that was formally launched on January 30, 2020, as the Maryland Quantum Alliance. The MQA was recently renamed the Mid-Atlantic Quantum Alliance to reflect its larger, more inclusive scope.
“We are very pleased to welcome new partners to the Mid-Atlantic Quantum Alliance.” said University of Maryland President Darryll J. Pines. “Our region is already a world leader in quantum science and technology, and the MQA is working to expand its impact in the design, building and commercialization of quantum technologies, and to create a skilled, diverse quantum workforce. This work is essential to power the coming quantum revolution in computing, communication, sensing, materials and many other areas.”
For the past year, Mid-Atlantic Quantum Alliance workgroups have been creating ways for MQA members to more easily collaborate, share resources, facilities, equipment, expertise and data, team-up to pursue opportunities, and educate the public about the promise of the second quantum revolution. The expanding alliance has built a powerful forum for its members to engage and work together, not only on quantum science and technology R&D, but also on quantum training, education and global thought leadership. The MQA recently expanded the number and size of its workgroups in order to launch several new initiatives in its second year. These will showcase its technical leadership on the global stage, support quantum commercialization and entrepreneurship, and expand the quantum talent pipeline.
“MQA members’ wealth of relevant expertise and Maryland’s concentration of world-leading quantum institutes with cutting-edge facilities and research, made this the ideal place to launch our new quantum technologies company,” said Alan Salari, founder and CEO of Quaxys— MQA’s newest member. “We are developing the new generation of hardware systems, especially at microwave frequencies,used for control and measurement of quantum bits, the basic unit of information in quantum computing. Quaxys is committed to solving the most challenging technical hurdles to quantum technologies. And we are excited to collaborate with experts from the University of Maryland and other MQA members in our work to bring the best of such technology to the market in the shortest time.”
The Mid-Atlantic Quantum Alliance is collaboratively working to empower the region and nation to lead the unfolding second quantum revolution, which is expected to bring transformative advances in computing, communication, sensing, materials and many other areas. Alliance members have formally agreed to work together to inclusively advance the regional quantum ecosystem in a host of ways, including:
raising public awareness of quantum opportunities and potential,
driving new quantum science discovery,
developing pioneering quantum technologies,
supporting quantum entrepreneurship, and startup companies
training a diverse, world class quantum workforce.
“We are excited to be a part of the Maryland Quantum Alliance (MQA),” said Bowie State University Professor Chaobin Liu. “We expect that MQA will create opportunities for BSU students to leverage the world-class quantum expertise, educational resources and career opportunities in the region and to fully participate in the second quantum revolution,” said Liu, whose research and teaching focuses on probability theory and mathematical statistics, Mathematical physics and quantum computation. Bowie State University, Maryland’s first historically black public university, supports the region’s workforce and economy by engaging in strategic partnerships, research, and public service to benefit local, state, national, and global communities.
Current specific goals of the MQA include:
accelerating the strong quantum innovation by and among alliance members, and across the Mid-Atlantic region
promoting interdisciplinary, applied & translational quantum tech research and commercialization efforts & outcomes
making relevant quantum expertise & tech easier to find & access
sharing resources and identifying regional research infrastructure needs & opportunities
building a quantum workforce by: facilitating curriculum sharing & access to unique equipment/labs/expertise; and creating unique shared experiential learning programs
elevating diversity & inclusion as a core part alliance efforts connecting/amplifying public & K-12 education campaigns building international partnerships
“Building and expanding diverse collaborations across different types of organizations are the foundation for a vibrant quantum economy within the region, which is the prime purpose of the MQA,” said John Sawyer, MQA Interim Executive Director, and Director of Strategic
Research Initiatives at the University of Maryland. “Our members work together to align basic and applied quantum science with real-world needs and requirements, enable more rapid discovery of creative solutions, and equitably create the necessary infrastructure and workforce to scale up quantum technologies.”
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