White House launches strategy to lead world in quantum

White House launches strategy to lead world in quantum

Bid to secure global leadership in Quantum Information Science as China edges ahead

The White House yesterday launched a national strategic overview for Quantum Information Science (QIS) in a bid to secure global leadership in “the next technological revolution”.

QIS – which covers quantum processors, sensors, materials, computing, algorithms and cyber-security systems – represents an opportunity for the US to “improve its industrial base, create jobs, and provide economic and national security benefits”, the National Science and Technology Council, which sits within the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy, said.

“The Trump administration is committed to maintaining and expanding American leadership in QIS to enable future long-term benefits from, and protection of, the science and technology created through this research,” the council added.

The strategy puts forward a number of recommendations to achieve American leadership in the field. They include a science-first approach to research and an understanding that progress is working to a “ten-year horizon”; the creation of a “quantum-smart workforce for tomorrow” which could include elementary school education efforts; deeper engagement with industry; the provision of critical infrastructure; and the advancement of international cooperation with “like-minded industry and Government partners”.

“In order to maintain and expand American leadership in this critical technology …we must improve our capacity for cutting edge research and development, expand the QIS-literate workforce, and seamlessly coordinate between government, academic, and private sector players,” the council said.

At a launch event for the strategy on Monday in Washington, representatives from companies including Alphabet, IBM, JPMorgan Chase, Lockheed Martin, Rigetti, Intel and Goldman Sachs joined academics and officials from the Pentagon, National Security Agency, White House National Security Council, NASA and a number of federal departments.

The strategy’s launch comes as the US Congress drafts legislation to establish a 10-year US National Quantum Initiative, with close to $1.3 billion of funding for research and education.

Having passed the House of Representatives last week, there are fears the initiative could falter at the Senate, and not be finalised before the mid-term elections in November.

To secure leadership, or even competitiveness, in the field, the US will need to act swiftly. A report this month from the Center for a New American Security said China is “positioning itself as a powerhouse in quantum science” and is set to “leapfrog” the US despite being a “relative latecomer to the race”.

As House and Senate science chairs wrote in an op-ed earlier this year: "It's a race we must win".

Developing hardware and Dark Matter discoveries

At the summit, the US Department of Energy announced $218 million in funding for 85 QIS research projects.

Divided among scientists at 28 higher learning institutions and nine DoE labs, the projects cover “developing hardware and software for a new generation of quantum computers”, the discovery of new materials with “special quantum properties” and exploring how quantum computing can provide insights into Dark Matter and black holes.

Some $73 million will be awarded this year, the rest dependent on the approval of congress.

“Quantum Information Science represents the next frontier in the Information Age,” said US Secretary of Energy Rick Perry.

“At a time of fierce international competition, these investments will ensure sustained American leadership in a field likely to shape the long-term future of information processing and yield multiple new technologies that benefit our economy and society,” he said.

Federal agency the National Science Foundation (NSF) also announced funding for the field, with $31 million for fundamental research.

The majority of the money will go towards projects that will lead to systems and proof-of-concept validations in quantum sensing, communication, computing and simulations, the agency said.

The rest will fund research around scalable quantum communication systems.

"The quantum revolution is about expanding the definition of what's possible for the technology of tomorrow," said NSF Director France Córdova.

"NSF-supported researchers are working to deepen our understanding of quantum mechanics and apply that knowledge to create world-changing applications. These new investments will position the U.S. to be a global leader in quantum research and development and help train the next generation of quantum researchers."

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