The University of Maryland has become the "Capital of Quantum" - and the university is determined to continue building that legacy, UMD President Darryll J. Pines told an audience of scientists, investors and entrepreneurs on April 19, 2023.
Pines delivered the keynote address at Day 2 of the Quantum Investment Summit, held in the Hall CP in UMD’s Discovery District to help cultivate the “quantum ecosystem” around the university; it includes more than 200 UMD scientists and engineers, joint research with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and broad engagement with other government agencies and labs, and a partnership with groundbreaking quantum computing company IonQ (headquartered in the Discovery District). Another key element: the UMD-founded business incubator known as the Quantum Startup Foundry (QSF), which organized and hosted the event.
Pines publicly staked the claim to UMD’s title as the Capital of Quantum at the first Quantum World Congress held in Washington, D.C., last fall.
“I don’t think we are being boastful or unrealistic about our aspirations—and certainly not with all the progress you have seen over the last 18 months,” he said yesterday. “We have all the elements necessary to continue to be the industry leaders in this field.”
Retaining the title will take just as much work as establishing it, Pines said. He outlined how the university would extend its leadership:
- Investing in infrastructure: UMD has sunk nearly $1 billion into buildings, labs and hardware to ensure researchers have the right environment and equipment for progress.
- Extending alliances: The university is building on its foundational alliances by helping to launch the Mid-Atlantic Quantum Alliance, which pulled together universities with some of the biggest companies in quantum.
- Supporting startups: UMD opened the QSF in 2021 to help new and exciting businesses flourish; it has since engaged with 30 firms, provided a home for five and conducted three training cohorts for early-stage startups. It also has close ties with local economic development agencies, quantum firms and other business development firms.
The two-day event attracted about 150 participants from a broad range of companies as well as faculty and research staff from UMD, the University of Maryland, Baltimore, Morgan State University, George Mason University, Georgie Tech and the University of Toronto. Representatives from the event’s governmental co-sponsors—the Maryland Department of Commerce, the Prince George’s County Economic Development Corporation and the Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation—also attended.
In addition to opportunities for investors in the audience to speak with company representatives, a range of panel discussions and fireside chats covered topics from computing to quantum networking to new developments in post-quantum cryptography.
Other speakers included Maryland Department of Commerce Secretary Kevin Anderson and UMD Vice President for Research Gregory F. Ball, who emphasized the campus’ quantum history and partnership with NIST as reasons the “capital” designation is merited—starting with more than 30 years of transformational quantum science and tech research.
“With more than 200 quantum-focused researchers, including Nobel Laureate Bill Phillips, the University of Maryland boasts one of the largest concentrations of quantum expertise anywhere in the world,” Ball said.
Pines reminded the audience that the astounding commercial possibilities of quantum shouldn’t overshadow this groundbreaking field’s ability to do good.
“Quantum is about new technology and new knowledge and new discovery for us and the world,” he said. “But it’s also about improving the lives of all humankind. From some of the smallest particles in existence could come the solutions to the grandest challenges facing society.”