Quantum is global, has always been global. This premise was the starting point for a meeting organized by QED-C and Quantum Delta NL (QDNL) on trans-Atlantic collaboration in a growing quantum industry. The meeting signals the interest in the US and the Netherlands in the emerging quantum technology economy, and in finding mechanisms to build new connections across the global value chain.
The event was held online on 13 July 2021 and brought together a select group of leading corporate players (large and small) from the US and the Netherlands. The meeting focused on exchanging points of view and identifying common needs and challenges.
Overall, participants agreed that at this early stage of industry development, more collaboration is beneficial for the entire ecosystem. While the number of companies is growing (which will ultimately translate into competition), there is also a clear ambition and willingness to join forces for lowering barriers and developing a global supply chain.
What are current challenges; what is needed from stakeholders in the value chain?
The highlights below were distilled from two country-focused panels and the following discussion. Four themes emerged: pre-competitive collaboration, critical components, applications and role for national programs.
- Current dilemma: need to protect IP while supporting open innovation with an exponentially growing number of organizations
- Need to modify models for pre-competitive research projects in order to fit new (geopolitical) realities
- Need to differentiate between low vs high technology readiness level (TRL) collaboration
- Ecosystem is still in the early phase, with small volumes of critical quantum information science (QIS) specific components
- Development costs are too high to justify necessary R&D by individual companies; there is a need to co-develop through partnerships (rather than focus on tech-scouting & acquisition)
- Supply chain of essential non-quantum specific components is still in development; often too few or no commercial producers. Need to invest in a resilient ecosystem
- Need to work with trusted partners on standards development of critical components and workable export control arrangements
- Need to (jointly) showcase how components work together in complex arrangements
- Invest in balanced expectations: on the one hand not enough use cases and lack of awareness among potential clients; at the same time often unrealistic (overhyped) expectations of near-term quantum technology
- Need to identify and engage near-term customers, by exploring industry-relevant issues that early quantum can solve
- Need to invest in fundamental (open) algorithms that can deliver a broader portfolio of potential use cases
- Current focus is on quantum computing; need to give attention to communications as a near-term application area, too
Role for national programs:
- Establish regular dialogue: create trust between stakeholders, facilitate timely exchange and matchmaking (see next steps below)
- Invest in trusted ecosystem across like-minded nations, where collaboration can thrive without major barriers (see next steps)
- Expand talent development programs (long lead times) (see next steps)
- Continue/expand support programs for small business (US: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR), NL: fieldlab funding) to stimulate pilot trajectories, which give credibility boost to receiving parties (see next steps)
- Help avoid hype, help provide accurate and trustworthy information
- Provide locations and joint spaces where collaboration can thrive
- Balance investments in small grants to small players and major projects that aim to coordinate among many
- Expand support programs for mid-career switch to quantum (in US and NL)
- Encourage more low-TRL science collaboration across borders
In the coming months, QDNL and QED-C will explore concrete initiatives that can support the various suggestions from this first meeting. Possible next steps include the following:
- Establish a group from US and NL to explore possibilities for a joint effort focused on talent
- Go beyond computing: organize a separate (online) meeting with a group of stakeholders focused on the field of quantum communications and networks
- Jointly host a follow-up meeting on pilot support schemes for industry-science partnerships as a side meeting at the upcoming Q2B conference in San Jose (December 2021)
- Explore the lessons learned from the semiconductor and other industries as historic models of early industry and collaborative science support schemes
Celia Merzbacher, firstname.lastname@example.org
About QED-C: QED-C is an industry-driven consortium managed by SRI International that aims to enable and grow the quantum industry and associated supply chain. With more than 170 participants from industry, academia and government, QED-C connects stakeholders to speed quantum-based innovation and use. For membership information please contact email@example.com.
About Quantum Delta NL: The Netherlands is a vibrant international hotspot for quantum technology, with leading science, technology and talent. Quantum Delta NL is creating a fully functional national ecosystem for excellence in quantum innovation, for highly talented professionals to bring quantum computers, quantum networks and quantum sensors to the market. For more information go to https://quantumdelta.nl/.