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US politicians call for a national quantum-computing strategy

13 Jun 2018
Kamala Harris
Quantum concerns: Kamala Harris wants to ensure the US does not fall behind in developing quantum technologies (Courtesy: Kamala Harris)

A bill aimed at restructuring the US’s approach to quantum computing research has been introduced by Kamala Harris, who is a US senator representing California. If passed by Congress, the Quantum Computing Research Act of 2018 would form a centrally-coordinated Defense Quantum Information Consortium that would include researchers from the academia, government and the private sector.

Elsewhere in Washington DC, Lamar Smith of the US House Science, Space and Technology Committee says he will introduce a bill to create the National Quantum Initiative. The member of the US House of Representatives from Texas says the initiative “will promote greater quantum research, standards, federal coordination, and collaboration among the key quantum players – laboratories, industry and universities”.

Harris says that the Defense Quantum Information Consortium will provide grants and assistance to scientists, with the goal of establishing the US as a global leader in quantum computing research. This, she believes, would give the nation a competitive edge in areas ranging from healthcare to national security.

Early stages

Developments in quantum computing may still be in their early stages, but experiments involving small numbers of qubits have already promised significant future advances in the technology. Much of this research has been done in California; carried out by institutions such as Stanford University and the University of Southern California, as well as companies including Google and Rigetti Computing.

Quantum computing is the next technological frontier that will change the world and we cannot afford to fall behind

Kamala Harris

Harris argues that coordinated support for these entities will accelerate the development of advanced quantum technologies. “Quantum computing is the next technological frontier that will change the world and we cannot afford to fall behind,” she says. “It could create jobs for the next generation, cure diseases, and above all else – make our nation stronger and safer.”

Smith adds, “Quantum computing could work up to millions of times faster than our conventional computing systems and solve problems we thought were unsolvable. The United States must get there first.”

The Defense Quantum Information Consortium would include officials from the Office of Naval Research, the Army Research Lab, the Office of Science and Technology Policy as well as the proposed National Quantum Initiative. The consortium would award competitive grants to researchers and administer research collaborations. It would also coordinate research in the US to ensure that different institutions do not compete with each other but work on separate tasks to accomplish larger-scale goals. The bill also seeks to ensure that research results are published at the lowest possible level of secrecy classification.

Harris says that the US faces a need for increased collaboration within quantum computing research. “Without adequate research and coordination in quantum computing, we risk falling behind our global competition in the cyberspace race which leaves us vulnerable to attacks from our adversaries,” she says. “We must act now to address the challenges we face in the development of this technology – our future depends on it.”

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