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Government Quantum Computing Initiatives: An In-Depth Exploration

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September 5, 2023
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Due to the opportunities, not to mention the threats, posed by quantum computing government funding has been steadily increasing around the world. This budding technology has the potential to disrupt entire industries, but, most notably, it has the potential to threaten public cryptosystems. National governments have a keen interest in securing communications not only from these future threats, but also from “harvest now, decrypt later” schemes. As noted on our National Programs page, besides national security concerns, there are almost a half-dozen other major reasons why government funding for quantum computing is on the rise:

  • Technological advancement toward solving problems that cannot efficiently be solved with today’s high-performance computing (HPC)
  • Economic competitiveness, not just in positioning to be the economic leaders of tomorrow, but to at least not fall behind the rest of the developed world
  • Education and workforce development, ensuring that domestic workforces have the skills to survive and thrive into the future
  • Scientific leadership, granting many countries the opportunity to be at the forefront of scientific research into nascent technologies
  • Collaboration and partnerships among government, academia, and industry can foster ecosystems not only for quantum research and development but also for commercialization

Government programs not only advance the development of quantum technologies through investment, they also reflect each government’s recognition of their potential. 

The Quantum Computing Landscape

The quantum computing landscape is not monolithic. While investments can be found going into key components of systems or even full-stack systems, each ecosystem has more facets than the quantum computers themselves. A full stack, from an ecosystem perspective, includes:

  • Hardware development revolves around a number of very different qubit technologies, as well as various interconnection strategies and error correction techniques
  • Software development aims to ease the adoption of quantum computing not only from a programming viewpoint but also through interoperability with all the various hardware
  • Algorithm development seeks to discover opportunities to realize highly-coveted exponential computational advantages over classical computing
  • Application development looks to apply these quantum algorithms to real-world use cases and thereby demonstrate practical utility
  • Centers and hubs bring together elements of government, academia, and industry to collaboratively drive all the above forward
  • Venture capitalists and incubators find promising startups and support their growth with both funding and expertise
  • Milestones, such as quantum supremacy claims and quantum volume (QV), that establish leadership in some technological aspect
  • Workforce development, acknowledging perceived talent shortages today and preparing for the needs of tomorrow in regard to physics, engineering, and computer science
  • Standardization, ensuring that all of these various initiatives interoperate and contribute toward the established common goals
  • Ethical standards, addressing concerns about privacy and communication security, but also accessibility and democratization
  • International collaboration, fostering development across broader regions or among geopolitically-allied nations

Some countries also intend to provide a quantum computer for public use, thus laying the groundwork for widespread adoption. As noted on our page “Quantum-as-a-Service: Definition, Advantages and Examples,” there are considerable advantages to providing quantum computing services via the cloud.

Motivations for Government Initiatives

In addition to the other motivations discussed thus far, there are yet more motivations driving why government funding for quantum computing is on the rise. These include:

  • Regional scientific discovery, solving problems that may not be of value globally, but may solve problems specific to a nation or region
  • Infrastructure improvements unrelated to global competitiveness, and simply meant to improve the lives of the citizenry in areas such as energy, health care, and the environment
  • Cybersecurity, securing communications within governments, maintaining the privacy of medical information, and protecting e-commerce
  • Military applications, because while securing communication is defensive in nature, not all applications of quantum computing are defensive in nature
  • Preparedness, not just for the ubiquitousness of quantum computers, but also other advanced technologies such as general artificial intelligence (AI)

In regard to the second point about infrastructure improvements, an article by Quantum Computing Inc. (QCi) titled “How Quantum Computing Will Transform Government IT” mentions cybersecurity at first, but then addresses how optimization solvers can contribute to the public good. An article posted by techUK titled “How Can Governments Use Quantum Computing for Public Sector?,” contributed by D-Wave Systems, delves even deeper into the latter. Example optimization problems apply to transportation, emergency response, supply chain, sustainability, and broadband.

Leading Government Initiatives

A growing number of governments from around the world have launched initiatives to advance the development of quantum technologies within their borders or regions. These initiatives focus on research, although some hint toward commercialization. Many of these initiatives foster collaborations across government, academia, and industry. The largest of these programs include:

  • United States (National Quantum Initiative Act 2018) funds research and development and established the National Quantum Coordination Office (NQCO)
  • Australia (Australian National Quantum Computing Centre - ANQCC) is a collaboration of universities, government agencies, and industry partners
  • Canada (Quantum Technology Supercluster) brings government, industry, and academia together to accelerate development and commercialization
  • China (National Laboratory for Quantum Information Sciences) supports research into quantum computing, quantum communication, and quantum cryptography
  • European Union (Quantum Flagship 2018) funds research and development across Europe and is  collaborative in nature
  • India (Quantum Information Science and Technology (QuST) Initiative) advances research and development through collaborations with academic institutions
  • Israel (Quantum Technologies Initiative) supports research and development in quantum computing, quantum communication, and quantum sensors
  • Japan (Quantum Information Technology Initiative - QITI) supports research and development in quantum information technologies through cross-sector collaborations
  • Netherlands (Quantum Delta NL) has a public-private partnership focused on quantum research and innovation in quantum computing and quantum communication
  • Singapore (Quantum Engineering Programme - QEP) focuses on research and development in quantum communication, quantum sensing, and quantum computing
  • United Kingdom (UK National Quantum Technologies Programme) supports research and development across academia, industry, and government 

These government initiatives reflect the growing recognition of the importance of quantum technologies in scientific research, industry competitiveness, and national security. They foster collaboration among governments, academia, and industry to drive advancements in quantum computing and related fields.

Research and Development Funding

Funding for research and development (R&D) can take many forms. Reports of global investments are often cited but don’t paint the full picture. The US government quantum computing budget, for example, does not factor in considerable private investment, which may be motivated by other government policies and programs, and not necessarily at the federal level. For a broader perspective, consider the following:

  • Federal and state grants to support universities, national and regional research centers, startups, as well as key industry players
  • Public-private partnerships combine government funding with private investments, increasing the total amount of funding available.
  • Long-term projects that sustain funding over many years and provide some stability for private and academic initiatives
  • Declaration of strategic priorities, not only driving further funding into the sector but also driving policy changes that could spur advancements
  • National and regional research centers, information science centers, and quantum computing centers concentrate resources and expertise for collaborative purposes
  • Competitions and challenges that leverage financial incentives and relatively short timelines to accelerate innovation 
  • Work visa policies and workforce development programs to ensure adequate talent is available today and into the future
  • Encouraging international collaboration with negotiated agreements, expanding the talent pools for large projects
  • Democratization initiatives, providing accessibility to institutions, and even to individuals, who otherwise could not afford to participate in research initiatives

R&D funding is obviously critical to the future of quantum computing. Simply announcing a national quantum computing initiative can have a multiplicative effect as regional governments, universities, private investors, and private companies add their contributions.