U.S. National Quantum Initiative Act Signed and Delivered – What’s Next?

By John Russell

January 2, 2019

In case you missed it, the U.S National Quantum Initiative Act was signed into law by President Donald Trump on December 21 just before end-of-year holidays. Broadly, the NQIA sailed smoothly through congress driven in part by worry over losing ground in a global race to achieve practical computing and other quantum information-based applications.

NQIA calls for a ten-year plan and for $1.25 billion in funding over the first five years from the Department of Energy to support research, foster development of a quantum technology ecosystem, and encourage industry participation. Presumably more funding would follow based on progress and needs.

Among other things, the new law directs DoE “to establish and operate at least 2, but not more than 5, National Quantum Information Science Research Centers to conduct basic research to accelerate scientific breakthroughs in quantum information science and technology and to support research.” It’s described as a whole-of-government effort and spells out roles for the National Science Foundation, National Institute of Standards and Technology, DoE, and calls for creation of NQI Advisory Committee (click here for text of bill).

Here’s a brief excerpt: “The purpose of this Act is to ensure the continued leadership of the United States in quantum information science and its technology applications by—

  • supporting research, development, demonstration, and application of quantum information science and technology— (A) to expand the number of researchers, educators, and students with training in quantum information science and technology to develop a workforce pipeline; (B) to promote the development and inclusion of multidisciplinary curriculum and research opportunities for quantum information science at the undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral level; (C) to address basic research knowledge gaps, including computational research gaps; (D) to promote the further development of facilities and centers available for quantum information science and technology research, testing and education; and (E) to stimulate research on and promote more rapid development of quantum-based technologies;
  • improving the interagency planning and coordination of Federal research and development of quantum information science and technology;
  • maximizing the effectiveness of the Federal Government’s quantum information science and technology research, development, and demonstration programs;
  • promoting collaboration among the Federal Government, Federal laboratories, industry, and universities; and
  • promoting the development of international standards for quantum information science and technology security— (A) to facilitate technology innovation and private sector commercialization; and (B) to meet economic and national security goals.”

Back in September, Intel likened pursuit of leadership in quantum computing to a “modern day space race” and Jim Clarke, director of quantum hardware, Intel Labs, issued a statement in support: “This legislation will allocate funding for public research in the emerging area of Quantum Computing, which has the potential to help solve some of our nation’s greatest challenges through exponential increases in compute speed. [We] look forward to working with leaders in the Senate to help keep the U.S. at the cutting edge of quantum information science and maintain the economic advantages of this technological leadership.”

As always with such broad initiatives, the devil is in the details. It is perhaps worth noting a recent report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine was bullish on quantum’s long-term prospects but not on achieving near-term practical application (Robust Quantum Computers Still a Decade Away, Says Nat’l Academies Report).

Link to NQIA: https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/6227/text#HDEB502BED9CC4603A0E5F21C179960E7

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