With governments increasingly throwing their weight behind quantum developments, corporate enterprises starting to set aside money in their budgets for quantum technology and quantum companies themselves trying to do everything in their power to advance the industry, it may be time to turn attention to the practical matters of getting the manufacturing and supply chain environment ready to scale up quantum-related manufacturing.
In recent weeks, the National Institute of Standards and Technology awarded a $300,000 grant to SRI International, an independent non-profit research institute that manages the Quantum Economic Development Consortium (QED-C), to create the first-ever quantum technology manufacturing roadmap (QTMR).
That roadmap will seek to identify pre-competitive development and supply chain gaps and barriers to advanced manufacturing of quantum-related devices, components and systems in the U.S. The development of teh roadmap will involve many QED-C member firms, as well as other companies.
To further explain the roadmap and the job ahead, Celia Merzbacher, executive director of QED-C and QTMR co-PI, and Navin Lingaraju, research scientist at SRI’s Applied Physics Laboratory and QTMR PI, answered a few questions posed by IQT News:
Where do you start in creating a roadmap like this?
We started scoping this effort by getting all the stakeholders in a (virtual) room and ensuring that the team was on the same page on the scope of the effort. Not down to the details, but the broad contours. One distinguishing feature of this effort is that it is focused on the scale-up for quantum systems, from the standpoint of manufacturing, rather on any particular application or the capabilities that it will/should enable. For example, quantum computers could enable a range of advances in security, finance, and pharmaceutical, but that is not the focus of this roadmap.
This is not a top-down effort, where SRI surveys industry and formulates a roadmap. This will be driven by industry and manufacturers, with everyone in the same room working to identify sector-wide manufacturing challenges and what it will take to overcome them.
There’s still a formal “kick-off” of this effort to come – can you explain further? And how long will it take?
September will be a formal kick-off and serve to give our collaborators and the wider community a sense of the scope of the effort, as well as some details on the mechanics and the roadmap schedule. It will also be an opportunity to reach beyond our traditional pool of stakeholders and bring new entities into the effort.
In terms of time, we have 18 months to get to a first iteration of this manufacturing-focused technology roadmap. We view the NIST award as seed money to kickstart a long-term self-sustaining effort that provides value and guidance to the quantum ecosystem.
Will your project look at any other areas of need?
No. Anything that touches on scale-up and manufacturing of quantum systems will be a part of this effort.
Once you have the roadmap, how will it be used?
It hard to speak to how others will use this roadmap. What we can talk about is what industry and manufacturers have said would be valuable to them – multi-year guidance to suppliers, identification of challenges that competitors are open to collaborating/coordinating on, and a clear statement from industry on what its needs are. Might one gain other insights from the roadmap? Certainly, but it would mostly be speculation on our part.
Will the roadmap also be shown to government parties?
The roadmap will be shared with policymakers and government agencies who have a role in promoting advanced manufacturing in the US to inform their decisions where to prioritize investments.
Dan O’Shea has covered telecommunications and related topics including semiconductors, sensors, retail systems, digital payments and quantum computing/technology for over 25 years.