In our quest to accelerate the market adoption of quantum technologies, the Quantum Strategy Institute (QSI) looks at both enablers and hurdles businesses face in making these complex, forward looking decisions. For an industry that is on the verge of commercial expansion, this includes forming new industry consortiums, adding new working groups to existing consortiums, and forming an interactive industry relationship with the policy making governments.
In this series of papers under QSI’s Government and Consortium Relations pillar, we’ll explore the global landscape of these initiatives. This paper, first in the series, discusses the US-based Quantum Economic Development Consortium (QED-C).
How QED-C Relates to the U.S. Government
The history of QED-C is directly linked with the United States’ National Quantum Initiative Act from late 2018. This law gives the U.S. a plan for advancing quantum technology, and it came with USD 1.25 billion funding for the first five years 2019-2023. The National Quantum Initiative (NQI), together with the budget, is coordinated by the White House Office of Science and Technology (OSTP), more specifically their National Quantum Coordination Office (NQCO). The National Quantum Coordination Office runs the quantum.gov website.
With the help of this legislation and budget, the National Science Foundation (NSF) and Department of Energy (DoE) formed several national quantum research labs and centers, and NIST, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, established QED-C.
The mandate for NIST to establish this consortium comes directly from the language of the Act which required a consortium of stakeholders to be established within a year of the enactment of the act. Within two years of the enactment, The Director of NIST was required to submit reports to the relevant Senate and House of Representatives summarizing the findings of the consortium.
NIST was allocated some public funds to carry out this work, however this was not as an additional budget but derived from the normal amounts appropriated for NIST. For additional resources, membership in QED-C is fee based.
Enabling and Growing the U.S. Quantum Industry
QED-C members come from all sectors including small and large commercial companies, academia, federally funded R&D labs as well as federal employees from a wide representation in the U.S. government. They also represent various levels in the quantum value chain. In this sense, the quantum industry as defined by QED-C includes a considerably large number of roles. As membership is not free of charge, members also contribute financially to grow the ‘quantum cake’ bigger for everyone.
As language in the National Quantum Initiative Act suggests, members work to “identify gaps in technology, standards, and workforce” and then address those gaps in a collaborative way.
Work is organized around Technical Advisory Committees (TACs). There are currently six operational committees: Enabling Technologies, National Security (Q4NS), Quantum Law, Standards and Performance Metrics, Use Cases, and Workforce.
Enabling Technologies TAC is mandated to search and identify quantum and classical enabling technologies that need to be advanced in order to build the wanted high economic impact applications and uses. In 2020, this TAC organized four Quantum Information Science and Technology workshops on topics including cryogenic technologies, understanding materials-based sources of loss in superconducting qubits, quantum-enabling laser technologies, and electronics and RF/microwave controls for quantum systems.
Q4NS, the TAC for National Security, is a group dedicated for government and industry to exchange information, engage in a dialogue related to advancing Quantum Information Science and Technology for applications that affect national security. Topics cross-cut with other TACs keeping the focus on national security implications. Its first cases relate to enabling technologies related to quantum positioning, navigation and timing (PNT).
Quantum Law is another cross-cutting committee that collects understanding of legal and legal-adjacent matters and policies that relate to Quantum Information Science and Technology. Participation in this TAC includes government, industry and academia. Topics of interest range from international engagement, workforce diversity, intellectual property and social and ethical matters of Quantum Information Science and Technology applications.
Standards and Performance Metrics is one of the more concrete technical committees for companies looking to enter the quantum business world. As a fairly new industry, the global quantum community is just creating the very first small steps in its path to either industry de-facto, or globally recognized essential and non-essential patents. Role of this TAC is to identify standards and metrics that can accelerate commercialization of quantum-based products and services.
The Standards and Performance Metrics TAC also connects members with relevant standards development organizations worldwide, although a definition of “relevant” is still being defined. (In its 2021 report NIST does mention ITU and IEEE as organizations relevant to quantum.) The Standards and Performance Metrics TAC launched a project to implement a suite of algorithms to serve as “proto benchmarks” of quantum computing performance. These proto benchmarks will help in defining the standards and metrics landscape going forward.
Use Cases are important for the wider U.S. business community to start creating roadmaps and strategies around market adoption. As the world follows carefully what the U.S. is doing, this TAC has an important global responsibility, too. Use cases touch upon the entire supply chain from component suppliers to users. Policy makers, government program managers, and investors are paying close attention to any output from this group.
On February 1, 2022 the National Science and Technology Council Subcommittee on Quantum Information Science (SCQIS) released its National Strategic Plan for Quantum Information Science and Technology Workforce Development which recommends a series of actions. It is a well known and widely discussed fact that lack of talent is one of the major, if not the biggest challenge for the quantum industry to grow and mature. The Workforce Technical Advisory Committee at QED-C identifies education and workforce development needs in the U.S. to support the emerging private quantum industry, as well as works with universities and other educational institutions.
In the global economy talent pools and streams are fluid. Europeans and Asians are following the U.S. in this regard, but also actively setting up their own ways of addressing the issue. This TAC will do wisely to actively pay attention to global development in workforce building not just for quantum, but adjacent technologies such as AI, cybersecurity, telecommunications, and the space industry. A national report on the role of international talent in quantum strongly supports collaboration with friendly partners.
How to make the most of QED-C membership
As the membership of QED-C is varied, so are the motivations and goals for individual members. Government partners such as DARPA, FBI, or NASA for example gain first hand knowledge of industry trends, new products, inventions and technology adoption. Universities and National Labs look at the intersection of public and private advancements and are able to gain valuable knowledge for workforce needs, innovation requirements, and new areas for potential funding.
Corporate members are the largest and most diverse group of organizations. They vary in size, maturity, and industry, and include both for-profit as well as not-for-profit companies. Quantum technology providers gain unique access to end users, end users have access to industry insiders, and startups and established corporations have an opportunity to form strategic partnerships.
These interactions happen organically through collaboration within TACs, but QED-C also offers two distinct tools; Job posting for open positions in the member companies, a student program, and Quantum Marketplace, a one of a kind place for commerce to, from, and within members.
Quantum Marketplace is divided into a handful of categories such as software, hardware, applications, and end users. Each category features a plethora of offerings from QED-C members. Many members have opted to make a video of their products and services. Together with the growing number of topic specific webinars, QED-C’s Quantum Marketplace offers a direct lab-to-market channel for its members.
QED-C also publishes a series of blog posts which provide extremely valuable information on the quantum industry and society, how quantum impacts businesses around the world, trends in patents, how the quantum terminology is evolving, and many other imperative themes that will affect your business.
Going forward with the directive
In 2021 and 2022 the National Quantum Initiative provided a supplement to the President’s Fiscal Year budget, providing progress reports and target outlines to back up budget allocations. The supplement to FY 2022 budget, filed in December 2021 contains a NIST report on QED-C’s past performance around R&D in Quantum Information Science, QIS:
“NIST initiated the formation of the Quantum Economic Development Consortium (QED-C) using its Other Transaction Authority in collaboration with SRI International, to extend U.S. leadership in quantum research by building the future supply chain needed for the quantum economy. This year, the QED-C formally moved to a membership model, with over 150 entities signing a participation agreement. NIST has been working closely with members of the QED-C to engage with the International Telecommunication Union agency of the United Nations around quantum communication and computing and with IEEE around broader quantum technologies and quantum benchmarking. The QED-C is providing useful perspectives on the importance and readiness levels of standards activities in QIS. The State Department has been very helpful in the engagement with ITU.”
Together with the performance report, NIST requested funding to “expand the quantum network testbed program, grow the Quantum Economic Development Consortium and increase joint institute partnerships”.
In addition to contributing to federal budgets, the National Quantum Initiative publishes strategy documents, scientific and technical reports, and event summaries. Insight, facts, and feedback to many of these federally acknowledged documents come from the QED-C.
QED-C is growing and accelerating its footprint in assessing the current research, identifying any gaps in the research, and with providing recommendations on how the country can address these gaps.
A snapshot of recently launched and ongoing activities include research projects on advancing cryo technologies, a model and tool for prioritizing laser technologies, and a program for the use of quantum computing in partnership with the U.S. government. Workshops, roundtables are also created around “intermediate representation requirements, photon sources and detectors, quantum network infrastructure, quantum PNT technologies and more.”
While being mandated and initiated by the U.S. Congress and NIST, QED-C is also actively seeking international partnership where it can. In late 2021, it opened membership to companies from the following friendly countries: Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.
As the world faces increasingly severe and complex challenges, be they around climate crisis, challenges to the idea of democratic form of government, unequal access to resources such as food, education or healthcare, deep technologies are put forward as a potential solution. Quantum information science is in the forefront of governments looking for solutions to these challenges, their own national security, as well as commercial opportunities for their governments.
As the nationally mandated quantum economic development forum of the leading global technology power, the United States, QED-C plays a critical role in ensuring technologies and products are developed to address these issues in an ethical and sustainable way.
Petra Söderling is the Head of Government & Consortium Relations, Quantum Strategy Institute and has over 20 years of experience in the telecom industry, having held key positions in standardization, open source, research, and product management at Nokia. She has an MBA from Helsinki University of Technology, and executive education from Harvard Business School and Stanford University. Being Finnish-American, she has been instrumental in creating the quantum ecosystem in Finland, and ramping up trans-Atlantic relationships in quantum since 2020.
Copyright 2022 Quantum Strategy Institute