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US quantum consortium to encourage international membership

23 Sep 2020

Deputy director of QED-C group says that non-US collaborators will be able to join the scheme soon.

International partners will be able to join the US-based Quantum Economic Development Consortium (QED-C) in the near future.

Thus far the group, which includes more than 180 members aiming to establish a robust quantum industry and supply chain, has been limited to US-based institutions and companies.

However, in a virtual plenary talk for SPIE’s Remote Sensing/Security and Defence (ERS/ESD) Digital Forum this week, QED-C deputy director Celia Merzbacher indicated that international partners should be able to join as members within weeks.

“The membership to date has been US-based, but we expect within the next 1-2 months to make available membership categories for non-US-based members,” Merzbacher told delegates.

“The QED-C is being designed to be inclusive, to engage [with] like-minded organizations around the world, and is focused on building the quantum supply chain that will allow quantum science to become quantum applications.”

$22BN quantum field
QED-C was set up as part of the wider $1.3 billion quantum development effort in the US. Merzbacher estimates that global investment in quantum technologies to date stands at $22 billion, with China, Germany, and the UK among several countries to have prioritized the area.

Merzbacher is a member of the QED-C steering committee, whose make-up was confirmed last week. It features representatives from US government and industry, including the likes of defense and technology giants Boeing, Google, and IBM - who have made some major investments in quantum technology development - alongside smaller ventures such as ColdQuanta, QCWare, and Zapata Computing.

Intended to identify gaps in the enabling technology required to deliver a quantum industry supply chain, and to facilitate smooth interaction between government and industry stakeholders, QED-C is managed by the non-profit research institute SRI International, where Merzbacher is a senior director.

“It’s a forum in which to connect with customers and suppliers,” Merzbacher said, explaining why organizations had joined the QED-C. “It’s an insight into what fellow members, peers, and competitors are thinking.

“As the work of the QED-C progresses, and the gaps in enabling technology are identified, and the research needs prioritized, there will be research funding made available to close those technology gaps - and members will be able to compete for those funds.

“Membership also gives access to various reports, and the roadmaps being developed by the enabling technology committee work.”

Any non-US members that do join the consortium will have what Merzbacher characterized as “somewhat modified” benefits, but nonetheless should gain many of the same advantages from belonging to QED-C.

“US stakeholders in government, academia, and the private sector recognize that world-class research and development is taking place globally - and [they] are encouraged, and open and eager, to engage in partnerships with the rest of the world.”

Organizations interested in becoming international members of QED-C are encouraged to contact the organization via its web site, or to engage directly with Merzbacher.

UK panel highlights supply chain and skills gap
• International collaboration and the development of a supply chain for the quantum industry were two of the major topics discussed in a panel session following Merzbacher’s plenary address.

Chaired by Sara Diegoli, associate director at the UK Quantum Technology Hub in Quantum Enhanced Imaging (QuantIC), and featuring several other key players within the UK National Quantum Technologies Programme, the panel also focused on an emerging skills gap when it comes to filling positions within the quantum sector - with a consensus that the UK effort ought to put much more emphasis on skills development.

Among the ideas to address the problem are to better promote the enormous potential impact of quantum sensors in exciting new application areas such as healthcare (for novel brain imaging), and to highlight the job opportunities beyond research laboratories that are now starting to emerge alongside the first quantum applications.

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