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2023 Chicago Quantum Summit

Remarks as prepared.

Good morning. It is wonderful that we have so many people gathered here today representing industry, academia and government organizations from around the Chicago region. The recent designation of this area as a Regional Technology and Innovation Hub for quantum computing and communications makes this a particularly exciting time to be here. 

My congratulations to the Chicago Quantum Exchange and their collaborators on the selection of the Bloch Tech Hub by the Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration. NIST is looking forward to the new opportunities this will provide for us to strengthen our research collaborations with the world-class institutions and first-rate research centers here in Illinois, and we are excited to support the growing and vibrant local quantum industry.

Coming together like we are today to develop community, to discuss emerging research in QIS, to examine how we can develop a robust quantum workforce, and to better understand how we at NIST and the Department of Commerce can support the growth of quantum industries helps to ensure not only the regional economic health, but also that the U.S. will remain a leader in QIS. 

Some of you may have noticed that NIST has a lot going on right now. 

NIST’s mission is to promote U.S. innovation and industrial competitiveness by advancing measurement science, standards and technology in ways that enhance economic security and improve our quality of life. 

Critical and emerging technologies are a focus for NIST; leadership in critical and emerging technologies is essential for U.S. economic competitiveness and national security. NIST is proud to lead implementation of the CHIPS for America program and the U.S. Government National Standards Strategy for Critical and Emerging Technology, and to have key roles in the newly signed Executive Order on Safe, Secure, and Trustworthy Artificial Intelligence and, of course, the National Quantum Initiative. 

The CHIPS for America programs will ensure that the United States is the world leader in next-generation microelectronics by growing a domestic base for semiconductor manufacturing as well as a robust research and development ecosystem that provides innovators with access to facilities, tools and expertise. 

CHIPS for America will also help to develop the workforce necessary to build and staff America’s semiconductor sector, and help to inspire new generations of inventors, entrepreneurs and chipmakers. To be successful, we will work in partnership with a diverse group of stakeholders from across the microelectronics sector. 

Investments from the CHIPS for America program in areas like integrated photonics and heterogenous integration techniques, as well as investment in new R&D and manufacturing infrastructure, will provide significant benefits to the growing quantum community. 

AI holds extraordinary promise to enable enormous progress toward the challenges of our time. The impact and influence of AI only continues to grow, and will shape our world in new ways through interfacing and intersecting with other critical and emerging technologies. 

On Oct. 30, President Biden signed an Executive Order on the Safe, Secure, and Trustworthy Development and Use of Artificial Intelligence. The EO directs NIST to develop guidelines and best practices to promote consensus industry standards that help ensure the development and deployment of safe, secure and trustworthy AI systems. 

This builds on NIST’s existing leadership in fundamental and applied AI research; guidance, tools and frameworks; and measurement, evaluation and standards, all developed through engagement with our domestic and international stakeholders. And just this week, the administration announced the NIST-led U.S. AI Safety Institute, which will play a critical role in advancing the goals of the newly signed Executive Order.

This past spring, the White House released the United States Government National Standards Strategy for Critical and Emerging Technologies. NIST is playing the lead role in executing on the strategy, including in unique quantum standards that we want to ensure we get right. 

The Standards Strategy creates a strategic approach to international standards development during this rapid pace of technology innovation that we are all living in. It sets forth a vision for how the U.S. government can invest in R&D for pre-standardization, enhance participation, grow the standards-savvy workforce, and work with industry and academia to ensure that the international standards system operates with inclusivity and integrity. 

It specifically calls out critical technologies of interest to the attendees assembled here today, in particular, quantum information technologies. 

The NIST team is coordinating across the U.S. government to strengthen our involvement in standards development efforts — and work with the private sector from beginning to end to define the unique role of the U.S. government in ensuring we create a successful implementation plan for the strategy. We are developing the implementation plan for the standards strategy with private sector stakeholder engagement as a core principle from beginning to end. 

We have started with listening, and we welcome your thoughts on best practices for implementing our work. In September, we issued a Request for Information (RFI) seeking public input on how to best implement the Strategy. The RFI will close on Dec. 15; we want to hear your comments on the challenges you face in standards developments and your thoughts on standards investment, participation and workforce development.

I hope you will join us in ensuring that standards development in quantum information technologies receives the attention that it needs in these early days of the industry.

I’m proud that we have NIST staff members actively participating in international standards development organizations, for example the International Organization for Standardization, or ISO, and the International Electrotechnical Commission’s, or IEC’s, Joint Technical Committee, JTC-1. NIST staff also work closely with the American National Standards Institute, or ANSI, and the International Committee for Information Technology Standards, or INCITS, here in the U.S.

NIST’s quantum researchers responded to feedback from our industry partners telling us there was a need for basic definitions in the field of single photon measurements, and in September they completed a dictionary for single-photon sources and detectors. Writing the document was a three-year effort that incorporated feedback from international experts in academia and from industry — and it has already received attention from standards organizations and other federal agencies that are interested in using it. 

And of course, the National Quantum Initiative is just as important to us. The National Quantum Initiative is a whole-of-government approach to accelerate quantum research and development for the economic and national security of the United States, and it provides an overarching framework to strengthen and coordinate quantum information science activities across the U.S. government, private sector industry and the academic community. NIST has a leadership role in supporting the national priorities laid out by the National Quantum Initiative Act. Our mission, combined with NIST’s long history of excellence in quantum research, makes this a natural fit.

NIST is continuing our leadership in basic and applied R&D, including foundational research into the essential theories that underpin quantum information science, applied research in quantum engineering to produce more robust quantum systems, and measurement infrastructure necessary to advance commercial development of quantum applications. 

NIST has several joint institutes with universities in the U.S. that are hubs for quantum research — the Joint Quantum Institute and the Joint Center for Quantum Information and Computer Science with the University of Maryland, and JILA with the University of Colorado, which allow us to develop and maintain deep collaborations with leading experts in academia. These institutes are also incredible ways to support the future workforce needed for quantum.  

Our collaborations are not only academic. As called for by the NQIA, NIST established, and remains an active member of, the Quantum Economic Development Consortium (QED-C), I’ll talk about the QED-C in more detail in a few moments.

NIST staff also participate in both NSF and DOE quantum centers, and NIST has a staff member on detail to the National Quantum Coordination Office.

So, through the NQI, U.S. government efforts are being coordinated to advance quantum technology from the very fundamental underpinnings of the science to developing quantum applications, to engineering robust systems, to providing the foundation of a trained workforce, strong supply chain, and standards that U.S. industry needs to mature the quantum economy.

This year marks the halfway point for the National Quantum Initiative Act, and I know many of you are following the reauthorization bill that was introduced by the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology on Nov. 3.

As a sign of the strength of the quantum ecosystem in the Chicago area, I note that two of the 15 members on the National Quantum Initiative Advisory Committee are locals — Dr. Fred Chong and Dr. Nadya Mason, both from the University of Chicago. And NIST is, of course, proud to say that Dr. Jun Ye is also a member.

Now, if I can brag a little bit: NIST and the Department of Commerce have long supported, and will continue to support and grow, the quantum ecosystem.

Measurement science is at the heart of NIST’s mission. NIST researchers are always striving to push the frontiers of measurement. It is not surprise, then, that our work has taken us into the quantum realm, as there we are truly at fundamental limits of measurement. NIST breakthroughs in quantum science, reflected in, among other things, its pioneering work in atomic clocks and the development of more accurate sensors and measurement tools, has been truly foundational. 

In fact, the first major QIS workshop was held at the NIST Gaithersburg campus in 1994. This occurred within a year of Shor’s algorithm being announced. Amazingly, just a year later, NIST researcher Dave Wineland demonstrated the first quantum gate using trapped ions. A young postdoc named Chris Monroe was in that group and would go on to found IonQ. John Martinis, who would lead Google’s quantum computing efforts, was also at NIST in the early 90s working on SQUIDS, and the Wineland laboratory’s ion trap work would influence Quantinuum.

NIST research stretching from the 80s into the early 2000s would lead to four Nobel Prizes in quantum, including Dave Wineland’s prize for his quantum work. (The Nobel Prizes were for the cooling of atoms with lasers, the invention of the frequency combs, or the first realization of a Bose-Einstein condensate.)

Today, NIST scientists continue to drive forward, by advancing the basic research and developing quantum technologies. Part of our success relies on strong partnering with other agencies, industry and academia, including the world-class organizations here in Chicago. For example, NIST researchers will be participating in a round robin of measurements of superconducting devices that launched last week at the Fermilab SQMS Center.

I just mentioned Shor’s algorithm, and, of course, Shor’s algorithm poses an immense liability to current implementations of public key cryptography. Cryptography is a focus area for NIST, and NIST has taken a leadership role in the development and evaluation of secure algorithms for post-quantum cryptography, or PQC. NIST’s work in PQC aims to develop cryptographic systems that are secure against both quantum and classical computers and can interoperate with existing communications protocols and networks. Fortunately, back in 2016 NIST realized this concern and launched an open competition for new classic-based algorithms that would be resistant to both classical and quantum computers. Submissions were received from around the world, and researchers from industry, academia and government have been rigorously testing them.

I’m happy to report that in August, NIST released draft Federal Information Processing Standards, or FIPS, for the first PQC algorithms. The standards are now available for comment and are expected to be finalized next year. We look forward to publishing them and working with stakeholders on equitable deployment of PQC. 

Beyond our push to advance the science, we also carry out our larger mission of supporting industry. NIST researchers engage with quantum companies through cooperative research and development agreements or CRADAs, consortia like the QED-C workshops, and other mechanisms. 

The outputs of NIST work are some of the first commercial realizations of quantum products, from new measurement devices like the Josephson junction to exquisite new sensors with very practical applications. The frequency comb was a precision measurement technology for which a NIST researcher, Jan Hall, shared the Nobel Prize, which is now reaching commercialization as a system for monitoring an oil/gas field for methane leaks. This work was done in collaboration with Dr. Greg Rieker’s group at the University of Colorado, as well as other collaborators from the University of Colorado, NOAA and NIST. 

The University of Colorado work has led to the founding of LongPath Technologies, which is commercializing this approach.  And recently, NIST/JILA Fellow Jun Ye’s team used frequency-comb technology to develop of a breathalyzer capable of detecting COVID-19 with excellent accuracy.

Earlier I mentioned the Quantum Economic Development Consortium, or QED-C. As called for by the NQIA, NIST established, and remains an active member of, the QED-C. Today the industry-led QED-C is thriving as it focuses on growing a robust commercial quantum industry and associated supply chain. The QED-C includes over 170 members from industry, more than 35 academic institutions, nine professional societies, and 50 U.S. government partners. I encourage this audience to engage. Many of you have. 

QED-C is an active organization. It holds meetings and workshops for members and invited guests; has written reports on topics ranging from quantum use cases to the global market landscape; it develops road maps for quantum enabling technologies; and runs activities to develop the quantum workforce. QED-C has developed benchmarks for evaluating performance of quantum computers and a tool for prioritizing laser technologies needed to support quantum system development. And QED-C provides input on policies that impact the emerging industry, such as export controls.

Workforce development is of great importance to NIST. A skilled and diverse workforce is key to U.S. technology leadership and economic security. This is not just true for quantum but for all of the critical and emerging technologies that NIST supports. 

For that reason, we have workforce development efforts throughout our organization. A few here that I think might be of most interest to this audience are our student and researcher training programs. 

This summer the two NIST campuses in Gaithersburg, Maryland, and Boulder, Colorado, hosted 175 summer undergraduate interns through our Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program. The program provides undergraduate students with the opportunity to work directly with staff in the NIST research labs.

NIST’s NICE program is bringing communities across government, academia and the private sector together to advance an integrated ecosystem of cybersecurity education, training and workforce development. In October, the NICE program organized a Cybersecurity Career Week to help promote cybersecurity careers and grow this critical workforce, including events with both congressional cybersecurity caucuses.

Our Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) program has partner centers in all 50 states and Puerto Rico dedicated to serving small and medium-sized manufacturers. MEP recently released a new interactive workforce map. This map helps showcase all of MEP’s efforts across the country and complements a recently published list of ways that centers are helping manufacturers overcome workforce challenges.

Importantly, NIST laboratories host NRC postdoctoral fellows across all areas of research. This highly competitive program offers research opportunities in chemistry, physics, materials science, math, computer science or engineering, and access to NIST world-class research facilities and mentorship from our staff. Many former NIST NRC postdocs have become leaders in quantum fields.

In February of 2023, NIST and the University of Colorado Boulder partnered to hold a four-day short course in single photon sources, detectors and measurements. Students from industry, academia and other government agencies came together to learn the fundamentals of quantum systems. I wanted to talk about this specifically not just because it is quantum workforce development, but for two other reasons. 

First, this course was developed in response to requests for training from our stakeholders. Second, this was successful because it was truly a partnership. NIST and CU Boulder provided the leadership, but there were valuable and significant contributions from academia, industry, professional organizations, international national metrology institutes and other federal agencies.

And we need to continue partnerships in the future. The NQI provides a wonderful framework to do this, and we anticipate another five productive years of the NQI. Regional organizations like the Chicago Quantum Exchange and consortia like the QED-C create vibrant communities.

The advances in quantum computing, quantum information sciences and technology, and quantum sensors could be staggering. We are working hard within NIST, across the Department of Commerce, and across the government to support the growth of a robust quantum ecosystem within the U.S.

I am excited to see where we go next. 

Let me conclude by thanking everyone for coming here today. I especially want to thank the summit organizers for inviting me to come here today and providing this opportunity to speak to you. 

Created November 27, 2023