American Leadership in Quantum Technology

  • By Burcu Ozden
  • 10 November 2017

On October 24, 2017 house committee on science, space, and technology held hearings on “American Leadership in Quantum Technology QT.” The goal of the hearing was to provide audiences the view of United States’ (US) and other nations’ research and development efforts to develop quantum computing and related technologies, and to identify what more can be done to robust these efforts. For this regard, committee members made their opening statements on quantum technology and US leadership in this area.  Witnesses from National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), National Science Foundation (NSF), Department of Energy (DOE), IBM, National Photonic Initiative, and Argon National Lab were emphasized the importance of study and research in quantum information science and technology to sustain the leadership in this area.

One of the main topics discussed in this hearing was the importance of studying and researching in quantum information science and technology.  It was stated that the quantum technology (QT) is complex but it has the potential to revolutionize computing and strengthening and undermine America’s future. Furthermore, it was emphasized that research and development in QT is especially important to US for variety of reasons including economic prosperity, national security, US competitiveness, and our quality of life.  Chairman Mr. Smith summarized the effects of research in QT in different areas of industry with the following words: “QT can completely transform many areas of science and wide array of technologies including lasers, sensors, material science, gps, and much more. Quantum computers have the potential to solve complex problems that are beyond the scope of today’s most powerful supercomputers. Quantum enabled data, analytics can revolutionize the development of the new medicine and materials and ensure the security for sensitive information.” Dr. Crowder from IBM mentioned the current capabilities of today’s computers and what can be done with quantum computers. We quote “To simulate single caffeine molecules with today’s computer technology we need computers in the 1/10th of the size of the earth.”  He said quantum computers (QCs) will not only be beneficial for academic institutions but also for industries in solving exponential problems which are value to their business.  In this regard, he added that chemical companies in developing new materials, automotive companies in understanding the aging of batteries, logistic companies in optimizing the supply chain will benefit from QCs.

In addition, committee were discussed US’ and other countries’ place in the global leadership in QT. According to witnesses, US retain global leadership in the theoretical physics that underpins the quantum computing and related technologies however we may be slipping behind the others in developing the quantum applications, programing, know how development national security and commercial applications.  To sustain this leadership NSF annually has invested approximately 30 million dollars in quantum information and science research and education activities plus another 40 million dollars in facility related investments.  In addition, together with DOE and NIST, NSF co-chairs interagency working group on quantum information science which was established in 2009 under the national science and technology councils committee on science. IBM has the Q program to provide the quantum computing access to industry and research institution for business and science. Furthermore, universities in US collaborating with government agencies and form joint institutions (i.e. Joint Quantum Institution, Chicago Quantum Exchange) to improve the research in quantum science and technology.   Regarding this matter committee has also deliberated the efforts on QT by other countries. European commission has allocated 1 billion euro for the research efforts in QT. According to research done by Mackenzie, European Union increased the number of researchers in quantum technology twice as US and China has more quantum researches than US. In China government and industry working collaboratively. The Chinese Academy of Science and Alibaba jointly established the Alibaba Quantum Computing Lab with the goals of developing quantum computers with 50qubits. Just last year Chinese scientist successfully sent their first ever quantum transmission from earth to an orbiting satellite. A team of Japanese scientist recently invented in an approach that apparently boost calculating speed and efficiency in quantum computing. A European research firms focusing on training quantum computer programmers and developing an essential software. According to 2015 Mackenzie report 7000 scientist worldwide with the combined budget of 1.5 billion dollars worked on non-classified QT. Among these US’ estimated annual spending on non-classified QT research was the largest but China, Germany and Canada were close behind.

Beside these worldwide investments, committee member Mr. Weber took attention to the budget cuts in science and technology in different institutions of the government. He stated that Trump administration has proposed to cut energy science program 295 million dollars or 18%.  We quote “The research profile in advance scientific computing research program that supports advancements in the quantum computing saw 15% cut in the budget proposal released earlier this year.” Committee member Ms. Johnson claimed that it be much more difficult to ensure US leadership in this crucial field if we don’t at least provide sufficient resources to maintain our current reader progress. She also pointed out the cuts that administration proposing for the agencies and programs. She summarized these cuts as following: “an 11% cut of NSF, a 6.6% cut to the quantum science research at NIST and a 16% cut to DOE’s basic energy science program.” To compensate these cuts and sustain US leadership in quantum science and technology, witnesses ask from the government to make arrangements to engage companies in quantum science and technology, to increase interagency work path, to develop partnership among disciplines, and to develop National Quantum Initiative.

In summary, the importance of research in quantum science and technology, US leadership in this area, and current and future efforts to sustain US leadership in the area was discussed in this hearing.

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