Federal Quantum R&D Accelerates
Published: July 14, 2021
Quantum-based legislation, policies, working groups and studies lay the groundwork for new breakthroughs in an innovation poised to reshape science, computing, communications and more.
While quantum computing, the processing of information at the scale of small particles in any state of matter, is not a new phenomenon, a coordinated federal approach to quantum R&D has only existed in the past few years. The possibilities of quantum computing are extensive, from improving precision measurements, to securing communication and resolving complex computational problems, quantum as the potential to reshape many interdisciplinary fields. As such, the federal government took several steps in the last three years to establish and accelerate quantum R&D:
With these activities put in place, new breakthroughs in quantum are imminent. Federal investment in quantum R&D are ramping up. According to Deltek analysis of FY 2018 -2020 Other Transaction Agreement (OTA) data, the Air Force and DOD awarded quantum work totaling $6M in FY 2019 and $6.7M in FY 2020. Likewise, the FY 2021 budget request sought to double quantum R&D investments, with funding dispersed at Energy, NSF, NIST, DOD and the Intelligence Community. A glimpse at the FY 2022 budget request and recent initiative provides more insight to the direction of federal quantum.
FY 2022 Budget Request
Similar to the FY 2021 budget request, quantum continues to be a federal R&D priority in FY 2022:
- $260M at NSF to advance seven areas of QIS research
- $206M at DOC/NIST for Fundamental Measurement, Quantum Science, and Measurement Dissemination
- $108M at DOE/Office of Science to continue support for QIS Research Centers, establish a dedicated Quantum Network, and advance research in quantum algorithms, applications and testbeds
- $62M at DOC/NIST for Quantum Information Science, Engineering, and Metrology
Sample of Recent Initiatives
Public, private and academia continue to form partnerships and undergo initiatives, revealing an accelerated pace in quantum R&D:
- DOE provided $30M in March 2021 to advance understanding of QIS capabilities in climate change and national security
- The Air Force issued 17 QIS grants in December 2020 to bolster understanding of particle physics in computing
- NASA established the Quantum Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at the Ames Research Center to assess quantum potential against agency computational challenges in aeronautics, Earth and space sciences, and space exploration missions
While the maturation of quantum technologies is still several years away, contractors can expect the continued acceleration of quantum computing alongside other emerging technology R&D such as artificial intelligence and additive manufacturing. With quantum’s promise to reconfigure economical, security and social arenas, as well as elevate U.S. global tech status, additional opportunities in quantum from research-based agencies is almost a guarantee. Specifically, an October 2020 report out of the OSTP distinguishes eight research areas to drive quantum R&D: quantum tech to benefit society; quantum engineering; materials science for quantum tech; quantum simulations; precision measurements; quantum entanglement for new applications; mitigate quantum errors; and quantum information.