National quantum leaders envision current investments and future innovation
U.S. National Quantum Coordination Office Director Charles Tahan joined officials from France, Germany and the Netherlands on a virtual stage Wednesday to discuss how countries plan to boost innovation in the booming field, especially in a post-coronavirus world.
The conversation shed some light on how these countries envision ethical approaches at the forefront of quantum technology development, the needs to grow and diversify the global talent pipeline – and whether Brexit will impact their collaboration. with the UK National Program.
“Quantum has always been global. It will continue to be global, ”Tahan said at Inside Quantum Technology conference. “We are much better to be the first together than to be the second or the last separated.”
This complex field – sometimes referred to as quantum information science or QIS – combines concepts around strange subatomic phenomena with theories about storing, computing, or measuring information. Countries around the world have increasingly invested in and organized quantum-centric initiatives in recent years, as QIS is expected to pave the way for possibilities that are difficult to visualize like non-hackable communications or supercomputers that could be billion times faster than today.
A recent report by global research firm CIFAR, based in Canada, provides a comprehensive overview of current national programs. It has 12 countries that “have significant government funded or approved initiatives”. In addition, 17 countries have implemented some form of national initiative or strategy to support research and development in quantum technology, he notes. Among these are the countries of origin of the panelists – as are China, Russia and others that were not explicitly mentioned at the IQT event.
The German government committed € 2 billion last year to support quantum technology research in a program targeting recovery from COVID-19. German professor Claudia Linnhoff-Popien is part of an expert commission created from this program and reflected on her task of creating a roadmap for quantum computing.
“The goal of this roadmap is to find the right way to spend [funding], and to demonstrate the quantum advantage for practical applications, ”said Linnhoff-Popien. “So this means that in five to ten years Germany should be able to work with its European partners to build and operate a quantum computer suitable for international competition – and within 10 to 15 years it should be some error correction. quantum computer to solve a universal class of problems. “
Neil Abroug, the national coordinator of the quantum strategy of France, spoke about the recent and heavy investments and ongoing development work. Quantum Delta Netherlands co-founder and director Freeke Heijman highlighted the country’s freshness funding of a broad agenda which she says is “focused on scaling up the ecosystem in general.”
Ulrich Mans, head of strategic partnerships at Quantum Delta Netherlands who moderated the panel, noted that while the Netherlands’ national quantum program emerged in 2019, funding for the program – and that of Germany and France – came more recently. The United States National Quantum Initiative, or NQI, is “the oldest in the room,” Mans said, noting that it surfaced in 2018.
Tahan, a longtime physicist who wears a double hat as director of NQCO and deputy director of QIS in the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy, offered some perspective on INQ.
“Our strategy has really not changed over the past few years, it focuses on a science-driven approach and other high-level policy goals – increasing the quantum workforce, building the infrastructure. adequate, nurture this nascent quantum industry, then get security, both for national security and for economic security, balanced in a good way, ”Tahan said. “And we continue to cooperate internationally.”
The official added that he expected to continue to enjoy strong support through the White House, Congress and federal agencies for quantum-centric work. Looking ahead to the next few years, Tahan predicted that the United States would focus on refining applications and critically thinking about the benefits of quantum information science to society.
“I think we are still in the very early days of understanding when a quantum computer, when it comes to quantum sensors, will be valuable, economically, for our country and for the whole world,” he said. -he declares. “And we need to get there as quickly as possible to understand and justify new investments.”
The United States also intends to develop its market of ideas, according to Tahan. At the same time, America will intend to expand and diversify its pipeline of workers with quantum expertise. “Anyone who has worked in this industry knows that it all depends on the people. Nothing else matters, ”Tahan said. “It doesn’t matter if you have a kajillion dollars – if you don’t have the people to move up, nothing will happen.”
He highlighted the government’s Q-12 education partnership as a way to make the quantum pipeline more inclusive by dispersing learning materials into versatile areas in the hope of not excluding students in some places. The other panelists echoed this larger goal of putting people first – and bringing many people together across borders to exchange ideas and learnings. They have expressed interest in increasing them, both virtually and possibly in person, as the world reopens.
“It all depends on the people and the connection between the people who have shared ideas and shared ambitions – and that’s a really difficult subject,” Heijman said. “It’s still a rather small community and this talent is global. So we don’t want to limit it and confine it to a national ecosystem. We want to share, globally. “
The panelists also briefly discussed the legal, social and ethical aspects of the field of QIS. Tahan said he was thinking about specific elements of QIS that need to be thought of in unique ways that are not covered by existing frameworks, such as those related to cryptography and artificial intelligence. He added that the elements of financing are linked to elements related to ethical concerns.
CIFAR research only highlighted “some national governments” that have explicitly recognized the need to begin paying attention to social and ethical issues in their quantum policies.
“The ethics of quantum technology – so this is a topic that we identified quite late in establishing our strategy. For the moment, there is no specific work on this subject, ”said Abroug. “But we are thinking about it because we have identified that we have to anticipate ethical questions.”
The panel widely agreed that even if the UK has left the European Union, quantum cooperation between Europe, the US and the UK will continue in one form or another.
“We have a historic collaboration with the UK,” noted Abroug, “and it will continue anyway.”