US summit on quantum industry highlights skills shortage

October 11, 2021 // By Nick Flaherty
US summit on quantum industry highlights skills shortage
Quantum technology companies in the US have met with government to discuss how quantum computers and sensors will benefit society

The quantum summit last week in the US included a roundtable discussion with representatives of the Executive Office of the President and leaders from quantum information technology companies. The roundtable focused on understanding the applications of quantum information science, the barriers for transitioning quantum R&D concepts into products or services in a global market, and the potential impact of quantum technologies on society.

Dr. Charles Tahan, Assistant Director for Quantum Information Science and Director of the National Quantum Coordination Office, highlighted the need for accelerating this technology while finding creative solutions and protecting the technology. A report from the White House Subcommittee on Economic and Security Implications of Quantum Science highlighted the vital role foreign talent and international cooperation plays in the US quantum ecosystem.

Presumably that refers to companies such as PsiQuantum, set up by Australian researcher Prof Jeremy O’Brien from the UK’s University of Bristol. The company has raised a total of $665m for its photonic quantum computer that will scale to millions of qubits. with a Series D round of $450m earlier this year. Intel, also present for the roundtable, works closely with the University of Delft in the Netherlands for its quantum technology

“It was very encouraging to see the U.S. government engaged in discussing the challenges and opportunities of quantum computing and the need to support the development and deployment of this extraordinary technology, which has the potential to revolutionize entire industries and spur innovation and economic growth across every major sector of the economy," said Jeremy O’Brien, CEO and co-founder of PsiQuantum.

"Quantum computing is the most profoundly world-changing technology that humans have uncovered to date. The only question has been how to realize the hardware at the scale necessary to bring about these changes. The answer to that question has been slow in coming, due to unwarranted hope and enthusiasm for the small, noisy (NISQ) systems that are available today. It was extremely gratifying that at the White House event it was finally being acknowledged by tech giants and the US government that - so far as anyone on this planet knows today - we need a million qubits to do anything useful with a quantum computer," he said. "Getting there in time to tackle some of our greatest challenges - including across climate, healthcare and energy - requires the sort of private-government partnerships that were discussed at the White House.”

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The urgent need for more STEM education and high-tech internships was a recurring theme, based on the growing demand from industry to fill jobs in this field. Increasing America’s capacity to test quantum technologies was roundly considered a prerequisite for maintaining U.S. leadership. Industry representatives highlighted actions they are taking in this direction and pathways to partner with the US government to enable and support a global market.

Participants included Honeywell, which last month merged its quantum business with Cambridge Quantum Computing in the UK to create a major player in the merging technology. Rigetti Computing has completed building a quantum computing system in Oxford.

The meeting also included D-Wave, Microsoft, IBM, Google,  Northup Grumman, Vector Atomic and Zapata Computing as well as IonQ which is the first quantum computing startup to go public via a special acquisition vehicle (SPAC). IonQ raised $636m from the transaction to fund growth and accelerate the commercialization of its 32 qubit computer which is available through the cloud on Amazon Braket, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud.

“Quantum is here, and IonQ is leading the industry with our revolutionary trapped-ion technology,” said Peter Chapman, President and CEO of IonQ. “Over the past six years, we have taken this critical technology out of the lab and have developed it into a commercial product. This year, we are proud to have tripled our bookings expectations for 2021, and are further thrilled to have announced collaborations with Goldman Sachs, Fidelity Center for Applied Technology, GE Research and the University of Maryland.” It has tripled its bookings for 2021 from $5 million to $15 million.

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Picture: 
Honeywell's ion trap quantum technology

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