National Quantum Initiative Becomes Law
National act with UMD fingerprints provides more than $1.2 billion in funding for U.S. quantum technology R&D
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The University of Maryland, home to one of America’s leading quantum science and technology communities, suggested language and strongly advocated for National Quantum Initiative legislation that passed Congress with bipartisan support and has been signed into law by President Donald Trump.
The National Quantum Initiative Act closely follows the National Quantum Initiative Action Plan prepared earlier this year under the guidance of University of Maryland Distinguished University Professor of Physics Christopher Monroe, CEO of the quantum computing startup IonQ, and of University of Oregon Professor of Physics Michael Raymer. Monroe and Raymer are founding stakeholders and active participants in an organization of academia and industry convened by the National Photonics Initiative, a broad-based collaborative alliance that has been working to raise awareness of the vital importance and benefits of science and technology in areas of quantum science, optics and photonics.
The National Photonics Initiative (NPI) shared the National Quantum Initiative (NQI) Action Plan with lawmakers earlier this year, and Monroe, Raymer and the NPI have been working to advance and support congressional approval of a National Quantum initiative.
“The University of Maryland played a leading role in the blueprint for this legislation, with an active role in the formation of a large and broad coalition from academics and industry, who authored the white paper and action plan for a National Quantum Initiative,” said Monroe, the Bice Sechi-Zorn Professor of physics at UMD. “In addition, I testified to the House Science Committee and House Energy Committee on NQI over several months as NQI was gathering steam.”
The U.S. House and Senate have passed the National Quantum Initiative Act, advancing the bill to the president who signd the bill on December 21.
The National Quantum Initiative legislation—introduced by Congressman Lamar Smith (R-TX), Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), Senator John Thune (R-SD), Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL), Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA)—will establish a National Quantum Coordination Office inside the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy to help coordinate research between agencies, serve as the federal point of contact and promote private commercialization of federal research breakthroughs over the next decade. The bill authorizes $1.275 billion over 5 years for quantum information science research and development across several federal research agencies, including the Department of Energy, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the National Science Foundation. Funding will support the establishment of major research centers run by academic institutions, industry, government labs and others to advance quantum information science, develop cutting edge technology and train the quantum workforce of tomorrow.
“This legislation will address crucial workforce issues in quantum information technology,” says Monroe. “Quantum research at universities and national laboratories must be translated to industry to make quantum computers and other devices, and to define markets for this technology, and the government can play a crucial role in this transition. I would like to thank all members of Congress in both chambers who supported this bill, and also leadership in the White House for supporting a national quantum initiative.”
Research into Quantum Science and Technology
Exponential growth in the power of information technology – Moore’s Law – has long catalyzed U.S. productivity and economic growth. However, this growth is now slowing as the 1950s-1960s scientific breakthroughs in computer science, optics, photonics and other areas reach their technological limits.
The demise of rapid doubling of computing power known as Moore’s Law has mobilized the science and industry communities to search for radically new approaches to information processing. Advances in quantum science and quantum technologies, including many made at the University of Maryland, are based on fundamental particles of nature, such as individual atoms and photons. These advances are natural targets for new revolutions in information science because they hold great promise to become the computers, networks and sensors of tomorrow.
Quantum information science is based on exploiting subtle aspects of quantum physics, such as “quantum superposition” and “entanglement,” for valuable, real-world technologies. These technologies have the potential to tackle the hardest computational problems and enhance a wide variety of sensor- and communication-based systems.
The University of Maryland is a leader in quantum science, computer science, artificial intelligence, big data and other areas of science, technology and education that are critical to the nation’s economy and security. UMD is home to one of the world’s top quantum science and technology communities, with over 200 quantum researchers on site. UMD’s quantum science and technology partnerships and startups include:
the Joint Quantum Institute (JQI) is a partnership between UMD and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) that is based on UMD’s campus and dedicated to the broad study of quantum science from theory to experiment ;
the Joint Center for Quantum Information and Computer Science (QuICS) is a UMD-NIST initiative working to understand and enable the full promise of quantum computation, including providing quantum software to go with the quantum hardware;
a quantum-focused National Science Foundation Physics Frontier Center was first awarded to UMD in 2008 and renewed in 2014. NSF’s prestigious Physics Frontier Centers promote collaborative exploration of challenging physics questions.
the Center for Distributed Quantum Information, a collaborative effort between UMD and the U.S. Army Research Laboratory to develop quantum communication capabilities based on interfaces between quantum memory and photons;
IonQ, a quantum computing startup located in College Park and co-founded by Monroe and Jungsang Kim, an engineering professor at Duke University. IonQ builds full-stack quantum computer systems shown to be among the most powerful in the world.
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