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Quantum research in the US was just handed a $250 million boost

September 26, 2018

The precise amount is $249 million from two US government agencies. But as important as the money is the thinking behind what it should be used for.

Quantum cash dispensers: The US Department of Energy (DOE) will pump $218 million into 85 research projects at universities and national labs via a series of two- to five-year awards. The National Science Foundation plans to spend $31 million in areas such as quantum sensing, computing, and communications. The funding announcements were made at a White House summit this week alongside a document outlining a US national strategy for quantum information science.

The strategy: This calls for a “science first” approach that emphasizes supporting basic research because it’s still too early to tell what the best commercial uses for quantum tech will be. The DOE’s initiative is a good example of this. Among its projects is a $30 million, five-year grant to Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to build and run an advanced quantum test bed. Irfan Siddiqi, its director, said it will be an open resource that lets researchers explore various kinds of superconducting quantum processors.

The workforce: The strategy also emphasizes the need to develop many more workers in the US who understand quantum technology. Among other things, it recommends more support for young researchers and calls for universities to create quantum science and engineering departments.

Attendees at the summit told MIT Technology Review there was also plenty of talk about how to get more women into the quantum workforce and more talented foreign researchers into the US on visas. “There was an acute awareness of the global talent war we face in this field,” said Christopher Savoie, the CEO of Zapata Computing, a quantum startup.

The politics: Congress is also working on draft legislation that would create a national quantum initiative, with some $1.3 billion of additional funding over a five-year period. But with midterm elections looming, there’s concern this could be delayed. 

 

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