Musings on the U.S Quantum Economy

  • By Jenny Stein
  • 14 October 2020

The Quantum Information Science and Technology (QIST) Summit, hosted by the Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Lab, took place on October 7-8th and connected industry, governmental, and academic experts to discuss six broad themes in panel sessions. PQI students attended the online event and prepared summaries of each panel. You can find the first three of the panel reports here and here. The last half will be released next week.

The first of the panels was titled “Considerations for Building the US Quantum Economy”. The panelists covered topics like ethical considerations, industrial impacts, and market opportunities for the future of quantum in the economy. The moderator was Rima Kasia Oueid, the Commercialization Executive of the Office of Technology Transitions at the Department of Energy. The knowledgeable panelists included:

  • Carl Williams, the Deputy Director of the Physical Measurement Laboratory at the National Institute of Standards and Technology,
  • Saikat Guha, an Associate Professor at the University of Arizona in the College of Optical Sciences and the Director of the NSF Center for Quantum Network,
  • Matt Langione, a Principal at the Boston Consulting Group and a member of the Quantum Economic Development Consortium (QED-C),
  • and Celia Merzbacher, the Deputy Director of the QED-C.

The panel began with the definition of “quantum supremacy”, and from that phrase, I was expecting a description of quantum taking over the world! Carl defined it as a goal having the ability to solve a problem that no classical computer or combination of classical computers could solve in any feasible amount of time. He sees quantum computing as eventually revolutionizing everything, from weather forecasting to drug design.

Saikat had some valuable insights on the upcoming timeline of quantum technology. He noted that a lot of basic research still needs to be done before the implementation of quantum computing in the broader society. In addition, there is a lot of uncertainty about the ethical issues this type of technology may bring.

Saikat is part of a group that is awarding a “Quantum Society Fellowship” next year, where the fellows will address the ethical concerns of the quantum internet. If you are interested in this fellowship, be on the lookout for that! At this point, there is quite a fine line between the knowns and unknowns of what quantum computing will bring.

An interesting topic raised by the moderator was the idea of quantum technology as a “destructive innovation”. Matt tackled this question with a thought-provoking phrase: “Disruption and innovation can both be applied to quantum computing”. He explained this by using an accessible application to the pharmaceutical industry, where quantum innovation could be the decrease in regulatory processes for drugs. However, this can also be a disruption because it will require both money and coordination to implement.

Celia had insightful thoughts on the predicted size of the market for quantum computers and how it will grow over the years. She highlighted the efforts of the US in quantum technology by opening the Quantum Economic Development Consortium (QED-C) to the audience. She and the other panelists want others to connect and contribute to the future of the quantum economy. The Pittsburgh Quantum Institute is a member of the QED-C and is looking forward to sharing the resources they work to develop.

Written by Alysia Mandato