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Sensor and quantum hubs win US government grants

04 Jul 2024

Montana and Colorado-New Mexico efforts both due to receive $41M in federal funding.

The US Department of Commerce has identified the 12 different “tech hubs” that will share $504 million in “Phase 2” development grants - with two of the schemes relating directly to photonics technologies.

Awarded from CHIPS and Science Act funding via the Economic Development Administration (EDA), the latest round of support is described as “direct investment in burgeoning, high-potential US regions”, with the aim of transforming them into globally competitive innovation centers.

Among the 12 funded hubs is one dedicated to “smart photonics sensor systems”, which will be located in Montana, and another focused on “quantum information technology”, which will be spread across sites in Colorado and New Mexico. Both of those consortia are set to receive $41 million.

The 12 winning hubs were identified from a previous “long list” of 31, of which the Carolinas Innovation Center for Optics and Metrology did not gain “Phase 2” funding.

Headwaters Hub
Known as the “Headwaters Hub”, the Montana consortium is being led by Accelerate Montana, and is aiming to become a global leader in smart, autonomous, photonic remote sensing technologies.

“This Tech Hub will leverage regional assets - including a concentration of photonics companies and the diverse geographic landscape of western Montana - to integrate remote sensing systems with advances in embedded processors with built-in artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities,” announced the consortium.

“In doing so, the consortium seeks to develop and deploy smart photonic sensing systems coupled with autonomous systems to address critical defense, resource management, and disaster prevention needs.”

According to an accompanying document, the Montana hub had identified eight projects intended to accelerate technology commercialization.

“Our established photonics cluster is a global leader in remote sensing, particularly advanced lidar and spectral imaging,” it adds. “Smart photonics sensors are crucial enabling technologies for a range of private industry sectors including vehicles, precision agriculture, construction, and national defense.”

According to the EDA announcement, five projects are set to be implemented. Those include support for final-stage testing of technologies by creating environmentally specific testbeds in rugged terrain, precision agriculture, and roadway settings, and expanding infrastructure to design, build, and test micro-integrated photonic devices and systems.

Quantum elevation
Based across sites in Colorado and New Mexico, the “Elevate Quantum” hub says that it s aiming to launch 50 startup companies and create more than 10,000 jobs in the emerging sector within ten years.

Co-ordinated by investment advisor Zachary Yerushalmi, this hub is seeking to strengthen the sector by focusing on commercial-ready applications across sensing, computing, networking, and enabling hardware.

“This award marks the first large-scale, place-based federal investment in quantum," Yerushalmi said. "We are honored to be acknowledged as a driving force in the global race for quantum innovation, and this funding marks a critical milestone in securing US quantum leadership.

“The Mountain West is home to the largest regional coalition of quantum leaders in the world; this funding cements our status as the capital of quantum and supports us in building a thriving future for all Americans.”

The Elevate Quantum consortium boasts several big-hitters from the tech sector, notably Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and NVIDIA, as well as Quantinuum - the Broomfield, Colorado, quantum computing startup that has already raised more than $1 billion in venture funding.

One of the hub’s key aims will be to build open-access “quantum labs and fabs” to enable rapid prototyping and low-volume manufacturing of critical quantum technologies.

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