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Quantum Economic Development Consortium (QED-C)

Remarks as prepared.

Good morning. Thank you to Celia Merzbacher for the kind introduction and the opportunity to address the members of the QED-C. It is great to be with you today virtually, and I’m sorry that I can’t be there in person with all of you in Denver. 

Strengthening U.S. competitiveness and leadership in critical emerging technologies like quantum information science and technology is a key priority for NIST and a critical element of the administration’s competitiveness strategy.   

As you all are aware, NIST established the QED-C in partnership with SRI International back in 2019, as part of our efforts to implement the National Quantum Initiative Act (NQI). The NQI, signed in December 2018, was the government’s response to the challenge of ensuring continued U.S. leadership in quantum information science and technology. Being able to capture this technology will have a transformative impact on the nation’s future economic competitiveness. 

NIST’s unique mission aligns well with that goal. Our mission is to promote U.S. innovation and industrial competitiveness, and our ability to implement this mission is centered on a large research and development program that spans a wide range of technical disciplines. This research program is critical in the development of cutting-edge measurement technologies, the delivery of physical reference materials and data, and measurement and calibrations services that are relied upon by stakeholders in government and industry. This research program is also critical to NIST’s successful engagement in international standards development.  

In the area of quantum information science, NIST has world-class research programs, and the scientists leading several of these efforts have been recognized with Nobel prizes.  

We have a long successful history in quantum information science that we are very proud of, including the first demonstration of a quantum gate. Today, NIST’s research activities span the full range of NQI program areas, as well as R&D on the technologies that support these areas. We are unique in that our research spans all areas of quantum, including all leading physical platforms.  

As a measurement science organization — we measure the performance of technologies and use these measurements to improve the performance of technologies — we measure and improve, but we also improve the measurements as they get more and more challenging. This has been a very successful strategy for NIST. We are proud to see the outputs of our decades-long quantum research underpinning this emerging industry in so many ways, and we look forward to continuing to make progress together.

As part of our efforts to accelerate quantum R&D, we partner with other agencies on several projects. For example, NIST has strong collaborations with the DOE, NSF, and DOD in all application areas of quantum information science, including computing, sensing, and networking, as well as foundational physics collaborations. In each of these collaborations, NIST contributes core technologies and related measurement science.  

In the area of workforce development, NIST partners with academia, through our joint institutes (JQI, JILA, and QuICS), and the quantum research centers established by NSF and DOE.

Another important area where NIST contributes to the quantum ecosystem is standards development. As many of you may know, NIST has a large program to develop post-quantum cryptography (PQC) standards. These are cryptographic systems that are secure against both classical and quantum computers, and can interoperate with existing communications protocols. We have led an international effort to solicit, evaluate, and standardize one or more quantum-resistant public-key cryptographic algorithms. As you might imagine, this is a challenging task, and one that cannot be rushed, but there is still urgency because, as highlighted recently in the QED-C “Guide to a Quantum-Safe Organization,” it will take organizations substantial time and effort to implement the necessary changes.  

The NIST Post Quantum Cryptography process began in 2016 with a call for proposals. We invited the world’s best cryptographers to devise and then vet encryption methods that could resist an attack from a future powerful quantum computer. This process saw several rounds of submissions and evaluations, as well as workshops. NIST has identified the algorithm and is working toward a final announcement in the coming months. The selection is an exciting outcome of the agency’s post-quantum cryptography standardization project.

In other standards activities, NIST is working with international bodies and professional organizations to prepare for the expected widespread adoption of quantum technologies. We’re working with allies to ensure that international standards for emerging technologies are technically sound and expand market access. Because the quantum information science and technology ecosystem is so nascent, it also provides us a unique opportunity to explore new paths to creating a trusted and open international system with our allies and partners for this emerging technology. The U.S. has been working through the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, the QUAD, with the U.K., Australia, and Japan to advance joint research in quantum information science and technology. We are working with other allies as well to set up a trusted R&D community that will support a robust supply chain of talent and innovation.   

Our standards work with the QED-C is vital to NIST’s broader standardization efforts as it provides us with convenient and direct insight on industry perspectives. NIST activities center around advancing quantum standards at an appropriate pace for technology readiness levels, and working with international standards organizations to ensure that standards which may impede fair commercial competition are not implemented. I know that sounds like we are only working on the defense, but on the offense, NIST is helping with quantum terminology and architecture descriptions, and working to anticipate standards that are likely to be needed for certification, interoperability, and regulatory compliance. It is early in the process and the technology is still rapidly evolving, but as markets emerge NIST will be ready.

Within the government, NIST provides advice on policy matters that affect U.S. innovation and industrial competitiveness. To be effective in this, we need to be well informed on industry issues, concerns, and opportunities. In quantum, the QED-C has a vital role in helping us with this. An example is export control, which is a huge challenge for technologies where high-impact applications are still in the early stages of commercial development, the technology is still rapidly evolving, and scientific and engineering breakthroughs are likely to still be needed for the full potential of the technology to be realized.  

The QED-C is a vital mechanism for NIST to support the growing U.S. quantum industry, and we are delighted to see that the consortium is thriving as it is. NIST is engaging with the QED-C at all levels — on the Steering Committee; participating in workshops, studies and reports; and on the many activities organized by each of the QED-C Technical Advisory Committees (TACs).

For example, NIST researchers are providing technical expertise in the QED-C’s cryogenics R&D projects; and with the development of the QELT laser prioritization tool. You will be hearing about these activities later this morning.  

Researchers at our joint institute, JILA, have engaged with QED-C industry participants to study the role of higher education in meeting the future workforce needs.  

NIST standards experts in the Standards and Performance Metrics TAC are engaged with national and international standards development organizations on quantum networking and computing.  

NIST researchers were heavily engaged in recent workshops and reports on control electronics, single-photon sources and detectors, and quantum sensors. From these activities, NIST anticipates future R&D partnerships based on QED-C recommendations to address technology gaps.  

And NIST legal experts have engaged with the new “Quantum Law” TAC to share information and advice on legal issues and policies relating to quantum, such as export control and intellectual property.  

NIST is supporting the QED-C in its analysis of quantum supply chains and potential public-private partnerships on applications of quantum. As well as informing QED-C members, these studies are informing the government leaders who are developing national strategies for different aspects of quantum. QED-C has identified challenges and recommendations for strengthening quantum supply chains, and this will be discussed in the afternoon session.  

Finally, as part of NIST’s Advanced Manufacturing Technology Roadmap Program, we recently selected SRI to develop the first-ever quantum manufacturing technology roadmap. SRI will identify pre-competitive development and supply chain gaps in U.S. quantum-related fields to benefit multiple quantum technology application areas. NIST is grateful that 30 QED-C industry participants have pledged support for the project. The quantum industry is likely to face some of the same manufacturing challenges that other tech sectors are currently facing, such as dependencies on foreign suppliers. It’s important that we understand the quantum manufacturing challenges and have a plan that addresses these. NIST is very pleased to have SRI and its partners working on this, and we look forward to the results of their road-mapping efforts.

At NIST, we understand that profit margins are extremely tight in highly competitive tech sectors such as quantum, and that even large corporations may not be able to sustain internal R&D programs to address all their needs. This may include specialized measurement and testing capabilities or basic research on approaches that may turn out to be revolutionary, but remain highly speculative in the meantime.  

NIST’s quantum research projects, ranging from fundamental physics to applied engineering, are investigating technologies that are likely to be important for addressing some of these difficult problems that the quantum industry is still grappling with — such as, scaling to the large, high-performance, quantum systems needed for some big-impact applications. We have supplied the quantum industry with many key technologies, and we will continue to do so. Central to this is NIST’s very broad research portfolio, with many internal collaborations, so that when multiple technologies must come together for a practical solution, NIST often has in-house capability to achieve this. Another feature of NIST research is that, with the right motivation, we are willing to tackle the hard problems that take many years to solve looking out at the long game.

NIST has many coperative R&D agreements with quantum companies (large and small), and we’re partnering with the QED-C and its members on several R&D projects. In the cryogenics project, NIST experts helped the QED-C generate a roadmap that identifies cryogenic capabilities needed to accelerate commercialization of QIS, and those NIST experts are now helping 4 QED-C companies with design and testing of schemes to overcome current technical limitations described in the roadmap.  

Looking forward, there are many opportunities for new partnerships, for example in technologies areas that the QED-C has identified as vital to supporting a robust supply chain, including control electronics and photonics.  

NIST brings leading physical measurement capabilities and facilities that can help component suppliers validate specifications for quantum applications, and meet exceptionally demanding specifications that may be beyond-the-state-of-the-art in the types of instrumentation that is widely available.  

So in summary, we greatly value our partnership with the QED-C and view it as critical to NIST and the U.S. government’s efforts ensure U.S. leadership in quantum information science and technology.  

I look forward to our continued partnership and the important work that is in front of us. 

Created August 18, 2022