Illinois Considers $20 Billion Quantum Manhattan Project Says Report

By John Russell

May 7, 2024

There are multiple reports that Illinois governor Jay Robert Pritzker is considering a $20 billion Quantum Manhattan-like project for the Chicago area. According to the reports, photonics quantum computer developer PsiQuantum would be the anchor client of a 150-acre complex and discussions are underway with other companies.

The primary source of the news, Crane’s Chicago Business, (paid sub) posted an article yesterday, that is being widely quoted. According to the various secondary reports, the project could create 1000 constructions jobs and 500 resulting quantum industry jobs. It’s not yet clear how far along Chicago’s quantum version of Silicon Valley idea is. Back in February, Pritzker proposed $500 million in spending on quantum technology. Here’s an excerpt from HPCwire coverage then:

“Illinois Governor JB Pritzker is asking state legislators for half a billion dollars for quantum technologies in the proposed budget he released Wednesday—the latest show of support for a regional quantum ecosystem that has attracted millions of dollars in corporate and government investment in recent years and is emerging as a central driver of US leadership in the field.

“In an interview with Axios, Pritzker said his proposal includes $200 million for a cryogenic facility needed to keep quantum computing systems cool and $100 million for the development of a quantum campus. We already were establishing ourselves as a leading hub for quantum development—now we have the opportunity to take it a big step further,” Pritzker told the outlet.

According to the February press release, “The proposal includes developing a state-of-the-art campus with a cryogenic facility essential for research and development in next-generation microelectronics and quantum technologies. The creation of this facility and an accompanying quantum campus, receiving $300 million of the total investment, underscores the state’s commitment to fostering cutting-edge R&D, including designing, testing, and packaging at the intersection of the semiconductor industry and quantum information technology.”

The idea has apparently expanded and become more concrete.

Details around funding ($20 billion is a big number) for the new initiative haven’t been disclosed and it may be wise to wait for details to emerge before considering this a done deal. PsQuantum just announced $620 million in funding from Australia to build a manufacturing site near Brisbane.

Noteworthy, The greater Chicago area is already home to a vibrant quantum development ecosystem spanning government, academic, and commercial activities. It is home, for example, to the Chicago Quantum Exchange (CQE) which is part of a regional coalition that’s competing for up to $70 million in federal funding during the second phase of a federal initiative aimed at supercharging innovation economies that have the potential to become global leaders in a critical technology within a decade. As reported in HPCwire:

“The Bloch Tech Hub, the cross-sector coalition led by the CQE, earned the region a designation as a US Regional Innovation and Technology Hub for quantum technologies in the first phase of the program last year. That selection was announced in October by the White House and the US Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA).

“The CQE is based at the University of Chicago and anchored by the Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory and Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and Northwestern University and includes more than 40 corporate, international, nonprofit, and regional partners. It has played a key role in fostering the cross-sector partnerships that are at the center of the region’s growing strength in the field—and its institutions have attracted significant investment in recent years.

“That includes $280 million in federal funding as part of the 2018 National Quantum Initiative Act and a combined $150 million from IBM and Google to the University of Chicago and the University of Tokyo last year for two separate plans to advance quantum computing.”

The stakes keep rising as regional quantum initiatives in the U.S. jockey for position. It will be interesting to watch the latest Pritzker proposal materialize.

Link to Crane’s Chicago Business article, https://www.chicagobusiness.com/technology/pritzker-eyes-20-billion-quantum-computing-campus

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