Two American senators push for focus on quantum research

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Senators John Thune and Maggie Hassan have introduced two separate bills in the United States’ Senate that aim to improve the country’s competitive position in the nascent but extremely potent field of quantum technology vis-a-vis arch-rival China.

“Quantum mechanics play a critical role in our national security and economy—and will be at the forefront of innovative defense technologies that will help to maintain our military edge over China,” said Hassan in a release.

A snapshot of these bipartisan bills:

Spearheaded by Senator Hassan, the Quantum for Universal Advancement in Nationwide Technology Use and Modernization (QUANTUM) for National Security Act of 2021 intends to:

  • Develop appropriate workforce in quantum-related fields
  • Improve the supply of students graduating with quantum-related degrees
  • Prioritise funding for research against the backdrop of the economic and security threats posed by China’s research investments in the field
  • Include the US Defense Department research efforts within the broader National Quantum Initiative programme

Led by Senator John Thune, the Quantum Network Infrastructure and Workforce Development Act intends to:

  • Focus on federal research efforts and boost coordination between different agencies in this emerging field
  • Incorporate principles of quantum mechanics and quantum information science in the school and university level curricula
  • Form a comprehensive approach to workforce development in the United States while prioritizing rural, tribal, and other traditionally underrepresented schools

The US National Quantum Initiative Act received broad-based political support in the United States when it was passed in 2018. It seeks to encourage investments and activities across the US government, academia and businesses.

Though not too many details are available of China’s investments in the space, yet the signs in recent years are enough to make many other governments nervous. Rapid strides in quantum computing can upend existing security hierarchies.

Some clues about China’s focus and intent come from the $10 billion investment in building the world’s largest research facility in Hefei and the rapidly increasing Chinese patents and applications in quantum computing research. According to news reports, China has about 3,000 patents in the quantum space, roughly double that of the United States in the quantum space.

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