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SPIE hails US National Quantum Initiative legislation

15 Jun 2018

Program intends to accelerate US quantum research and development – promising many opportunities for photonics technologies.

The US House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space, and Technology and its chairman, Lamar Smith (R-TX), this week released an outline of the National Quantum Initiative Act of 2018. The legislation is expected to be formally introduced and considered in the Science Committee later this month.

SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics (and publisher of optics.org), stated, “The National Quantum Initiative Act, predicated on the US Government’s conviction that Quantum Information Science is crucial to the United States' economic and national security, will establish a federal program to accelerate quantum research and development, as well as aiming to ensure that the United States maintains a leadership position in science and technology.”

Quantum initiatives have already been established in a number of countries including Australia and Canada. The European Union Quantum Flagship program was funded at $1.3 billion over ten years and the UK's Quantum Hub Network was funded at $150 million over ten years.

Quantum Information Science utilizes aspects of quantum physics to develop valuable, real-world technologies; there is also a strong photonics component to quantum-based technologies and thus opportunties for certain systems developers. These technologies can handle computationally complex problems, provide communication security, and enhance navigation, imaging and other sensing technologies in ways that are impossible using conventional hardware.

The US National Quantum Initiative Act will create a 10-year program to advance quantum development and technology applications. The legislation is intended to achieve the following:

  • Establish a federal-government approach to moving Quantum Information Science to the next level of research and development;
  • Establish a National Quantum Coordination Office within the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy;
  • Support basic Quantum Information Science research and standards development at the National Institute of Standards and Technology;
  • Encourage U.S. companies which are investing in quantum research - as well as a wave of quantum technology start-ups – to contribute their knowledge and resources on a national level; and
  • Address fundamental research gaps, create a stronger workforce pipeline, and take the lead in developing quantum standards and measures for global use.

The National Photonics Initiative, a collaborative alliance among industry, academia and government to raise awareness of the impact of photonics on everyday lives and of which SPIE and The Optical Society are founding sponsors, has been actively working with lawmakers to lay the ground work for this critical legislation. Last year, the NPI developed a white paper entitled A Call for a National Quantum Initiative. In April 2018, the NPI unveiled the National Quantum Initiative Action Plan and presented it to lawmakers during NPI Capitol Hill Day that same month.

'Unleashing innovation'

SPIE CEO Kent Rochford commented, "A coordinated federal effort is needed to accelerate the quantum research being done today and to enable the technologists and engineers who can create the supporting systems and new applications that will unleash innovation.

"The advances in quantum technologies made by our community over the next five to ten years will have the potential to support development of new materials, enhance sensors, identify new medicines, streamline supply chains, increase transaction security, and enable efficient transportation of goods and people. I thank Chairman Smith for his forward-looking vision in recognizing that advances in quantum science and technologies will provide many benefits for society."

The operational goals of the National Quantum Initiative Act are to produce a world-leading industrial quantum technology workforce; engineer, industrialize and automate quantum technology; provide access to the emerging quantum computer systems; develop conventional technology and intellectual property; produce quantum software and new applications; and continue the research needed to support these goals.

ESPROS Photonics AGKentek CorporationAltechnaBristol Instruments, Inc.EKSMA OPTICSSacher Lasertechnik GmbHart Photonics GmbH
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