A commitment to accelerate research and innovation and develop the workforce for quantum information science
Authors: Santanu Basu, QED-C member, and Jacqueline A. Basu
On August 9, 2022, President Joe Biden signed into law the CHIPS and Science Act, which had garnered bipartisan support. The CHIPS and Science Act authorizes the largest publicly funded R&D program in U.S. history and implements programs under the CHIPS for America Act of 2021. According to the White House briefing, the intent of the CHIPS and Science Act is to lower costs, create jobs, strengthen supply chains, and counter China. Section 10387 of the act identifies quantum information science and technology as a key technology focus area. This marks an important milestone and gives a significant boost to quantum information science (QIS). The act follows nearly forty years of advanced research at universities, cutting-edge technology development in the industry starting with the BB84 secure-communication scheme, and quantum computing algorithms pioneered by Deutsch and Shor. It is an achievement of the entire quantum community.
The CHIPS part of the CHIPS and Science Act provides $54.2 billion for American semiconductor research, development, manufacturing and workforce development, but funding for quantum information science is included in the “Science” part. Those with a knack for numbers will get a kick out of the word count statistics in the H.R. 4346 bill that became law. The word “quantum” comes in second at 126 occurrences behind “data” at 282, but it is used more than “cyber” at 106, “artificial intelligence” and “machine learning” at 57, “chip” at 24 and “laser” at 14. Within the realm of quantum, “network” is cited 35 times and “computing” 12 times. What is amusing is that even the words “entanglement” and “hyper-entangled state” appear in the bill four times. Personally, when I was studying quantum mechanics many years ago I could not have dreamed of “hyper-entangled state” being included in a law. How times have changed!
This is a summary of the QIS programs and funding called for by the CHIPS and Science Act. Hopefully, the Act will be followed by appropriations to ensure these activities are adequately supported and the U.S. will remain at the forefront of this emerging technology at the nexus of economic, societal and national security interests.
Quantum information science funding in the Department of Energy (DOE)
The basic energy sciences program (section 10102 of the act) calls for the recapitalization of the Nanoscale Science Research Centers to include quantum information science.
Under the Advanced Scientific Computing Research Program (section 10104, subsection (b)), the act authorizes a research, development, and demonstration program to accelerate innovation supporting quantum network infrastructure and authorizes $100 million per year for fiscal years (FYs) 2023 through 2027 for this program. It also directs the secretary to establish a Quantum User Expansion for Science and Technology (QUEST) program to encourage and facilitate access to the United States’s quantum computing hardware and clouds for research purposes. The subsection authorizes $165.8 million over five years for the QUEST program.
The objective of the Advanced Scientific Computing Research Program is to establish a program to achieve computing systems well beyond the current state of the art. This entails foundational research programs in many areas including quantum computing, quantum accelerators and distributed high-performance computing. A further objective is to support computational science graduate fellowship programs to facilitate collaboration between graduate students and the national labs in all areas of computational science including quantum computing. In the law, quantum network infrastructure means “any facility, expertise, or capability that is necessary to enable the development and deployment of scalable and diverse quantum network technologies.” Sec 403 covers the Department of Energy quantum network infrastructure research and development program. The law instructs the DOE to
carry out a research, development and demonstration program to accelerate innovation in quantum network infrastructure in order to
(1) facilitate the advancement of distributed computing systems through the internet and intranet;
(2) improve the precision of measurements of phenomena and physical imaging technologies;
(3) develop secure national quantum communications technologies and strategies;
(4) demonstrate quantum networking utilizing the Department of Energy’s Energy Sciences Network User Facility; and
(5) advance the relevant domestic supply chains, manufacturing capabilities, and associated simulations or modeling capabilities.
To meet these objectives, the law requires
(1) Coordination among the DOE and National Science Foundation (NSF), National Science and Technology Council, and the Subcommittee on the Economic and Security Implications of Quantum Science;
(2) Conducting cooperative research with industry, national laboratories and universities to develop new quantum infrastructure methods and technologies, including
a. quantum-limited detectors, ultra-low-loss optical channels, space-to-ground connections, and classical networking and cybersecurity protocols;
b. entanglement and hyper-entangled state sources and transmission, control, and measurement of quantum states;
c. quantum interconnects that allow short range local connections between quantum processors;
d. transducers for quantum sources and signals between optical wavelength regimes, including telecommunications regimes and quantum computer-relevant domains, including microwaves;
e. development of quantum memory buffers and small-scale quantum computers that are compatible with photon-based quantum bits in the optical or telecommunications wavelengths;
f. long-range entanglement distribution, including allowing entanglement-based protocols between small- and large-scale quantum processors, at the terrestrial and space-based level using quantum repeaters and optical or laser communications;
g. quantum routers, multiplexers, repeaters, and related technologies necessary to create secure long-distance quantum communication; and
h. integration of systems across the quantum technology stack into traditional computing networks, including the development of remote-controlled, high-performance, and reliable implementations of key quantum network components by leveraging the expertise, infrastructure and supplemental investments at the National Laboratories in the Energy Sciences Network User Facility;
(3) Engagement with organizations such as the Quantum Economic Development Consortium (QED-C) to help facilitate the development of a quantum supply chain for quantum network technologies and components;
(4) Conducting “basic research in advanced scientific computing, particle and nuclear physics, and material science to enhance the understanding, prediction, and manipulation of materials, processes, and physical phenomena relevant to quantum network infrastructure”;
(5) In collaboration with the Energy Sciences Network User Facility, the development of experimental tools and testbeds required “to support cross-cutting fundamental research and development activities with diverse stakeholders from industry, national laboratories, and institutions of higher education”; and
(6) Considering “quantum network infrastructure applications that span the Department of Energy’s missions in energy, environment, and national security.”
The funding authorized for these activities is $100 million for each fiscal year from 2023 through 2027.
Department of Energy Quantum User Expansion for Science and Technology (QUEST) Program (section 404)
The Department of Energy has been allocated $165.8 million over the next five years to establish the QUEST program. The program is intended to expand access to quantum computing resources among researchers based in the United States. Participant researchers will be selected through competitive, merit-based processes and provided access to the United States’s quantum computing hardware and infrastructure. By facilitating the use of U.S. quantum computing resources, the program is intended to encourage quantum research, train the quantum computing workforce, and develop the infrastructure and capabilities necessary to support quantum computing research in the United States.
Quantum information science funding in the National Institute of Standards and Technologies (NIST)
Section 10230 instructs the director of NIST to “carry out a program of measurement research for advanced communication technologies.” The potential research areas listed in the section include optical and quantum communications technologies.
Quantum information science funding in NSF
The federal cyber scholarship-for-service program (Sec. 10316) clarifies that cybersecurity-related aspects of artificial intelligence, quantum computing, and other fields are within the scope of the NSF CyberCorps Scholarship-for-Service program.
Under Subtitle G, section 10381, the law establishes the Directorate for Technology, Innovation, and Partnerships within the National Science Foundation to “advance research and development, technology development, and related solutions to address United States societal, national, and geostrategic challenges for the benefit of all Americans.” The director is responsible for identifying and annually reviewing ten key technology focus areas, including quantum information science and technology.
Funding for quantum networking and communications is included in Title VI — Miscellaneous Science and Technology Provisions, subtitle G — Quantum networking and communications, Section 10661 (Quantum Networking and Communications). That section requires the Subcommittee on Quantum Information Science of the National Science and Technology Council to create a report and federal strategy for quantum networking and communications research. The provision also directs the National Institute of Standards and Technology to conduct research and standardization activities to support quantum networking and communications technologies. It directs the National Science Foundation to conduct quantum information science education and workforce development activities, including establishing a quantum education pilot program to promote quantum information science workforce development across the nation. The director of the NSF also must engage the National Academies for a study on the educational challenges associated with creating a diverse, flexible and sustainable quantum workforce.
Report on quantum networking and communications
By January 1, 2026, “the Quantum Networking Working Group within the Subcommittee on Quantum Information Science of the National Science and Technology Council, in coordination with the Subcommittee on the Economic and Security Implications of Quantum Information Science, shall submit to the appropriate committees of Congress a report detailing a plan for the advancement of quantum networking and communications technology in the United States.” This new document will build on the earlier reports “A Strategic Vision for America’s Quantum Networks” and “A Coordinated Approach for Quantum Networking Research.”
The report should include
(A) an update to the report “Coordinated Approach to Quantum Networking Research” focusing on a framework for interagency collaboration; (B) a plan for Federal Government partnership with the private sector and interagency collaboration regarding engagement in international standards for quantum networking and communications technology …; © a proposal for the protection of national security interests relating to the advancement of quantum networking and communications technology; (D) an assessment of the relative position of the United States with respect to other countries in the global race to develop, demonstrate, and utilize quantum networking and communications technology; (E) recommendations to Congress for legislative action relating to the matters considered under subparagraphs (A)–(D); and (F) such other matters the Quantum Network Working Group will consider necessary to advance the security of communications and network infrastructure, remain at the forefront of scientific discovery in the quantum information science, and transition quantum-related research into the emerging quantum technology economy.
Under the heading of “Quantum networking and communications research and standardization,” the law amends section 201 of the National Quantum Initiative Act (15 U.S.C. 8831) to include:
1. shall carry out research to facilitate the development and standardization of quantum cryptography and post-quantum classical cryptography;
2. shall carry out research to facilitate the development and standardization of quantum networking, communications, and sensing technologies and applications; and
3. for quantum technologies determined by the director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology to be at a readiness level sufficient for standardization, shall provide technical review and assistance to such other federal agencies as the director considers appropriate for the developments of quantum networking infrastructure standards.
To carry out these activities, $15 million is authorized for each the fiscal year 2023 through 2027.
Quantum information science workforce evaluation and acceleration
NSF will conduct a study on the quantum information science workforce. This study will address a wide range of topics pertaining to the quantum workforce and will make recommendations for developing it. Some key goals of the study will be (a) to identify the skills and qualifications needed by QIS workers; (b) to characterize the size and composition of the QIS workforce now and in the future; © to assess the academic coursework and interdisciplinary degree programs necessary to prepare students for QIS careers; and (d) to evaluate how well current education and skills training meets the needs of the QIS workforce and identify areas for improvement. This evaluation will investigate QIS readiness at all levels of education: K-12 students’ access to foundational curricula; K-12 teachers’ access to relevant course material and professional development opportunities; higher education curricula, lab training and degree programs; and professional certifications or other avenues for professionals to make mid-career transitions into the QIS workforce.
Incorporating quantum information science and engineering (QISE) into STEM curricula
The NSF will work to incorporate QISE into STEM curricula at all levels of education. This initiative will aim at developing age-appropriate materials for students from K-12 to higher ed, including community colleges. Further, this initiative will work to ensure that students from groups that are underserved or historically underrepresented in STEM have access to these new QISE curricula. This project will draw upon the findings and recommendations outlined in the NSF’s QIS-workforce study discussed above.
Quantum education pilot program
The NSF has been allocated $32M over the next four years to establish the “Next Generation Quantum Leaders Pilot Program.” The goal of this program is to educate students and train teachers at the K-12 level in the core principles of quantum information science. To pursue this goal, the NSF will offer competitive, merit-based grants to institutions of higher education, nonprofits, and other such organizations; these awardees will then partner with K-12 schools. The NSF grant funding will be used to develop and implement QIS curricula appropriate to the K-12 grade levels, incorporate QIS into the broader STEM curricula, offer opportunities for students to explore QIS higher education programs and career paths, and develop professional development and training programs in QIS for teachers. The legislation emphasizes that this pilot program should be implemented equitably so that the education and training opportunities it offers are widely accessible to students from many geographic areas and backgrounds, including those from groups historically underrepresented in STEM fields. Four years after the implementation of this pilot program, NSF will produce a report which assesses the program’s efficacy in developing quantum education and training, using feedback from its participants, and, assuming the program is successful, develops a plan to expand the program and integrate its methods into other existing programs.