(BizJournals.Washington) Greater Washington, D.C. faces an opportunity in quantum computing which is sprouting in the region’s fertile ground for innovation.
Much of it is stemming from university research, with University of Maryland sitting at its nucleus locally, as evidenced by the likes of College Park-based IonQ Inc. and others that have spun out of UMd. But fueling quantum computing and quantum information science will require more than just fancy hardware. It also calls for software applications, cybersecurity programs, university talent and the highly prized workforce dotting the region that can put it all together.
If the D.C. area can summon the whole of its parts — from the federal, state and local governments to colleges, universities and the private sector — to help build the industry, it could reap the economic whirlwind of a once-in-a-generation technology. But without those pieces acting in concert, the region could fall behind in a race that is being currently competed not only nationally, but also globally.
“This is a worldwide space race, not unlike the space race of the past,” said University of Maryland President Darryll Pines. “And there will be winners and losers. It’s really an opportunity for our region to become truly one of the epicenters of quantum. It’s just a matter of the proper investment, the proper policies and engaging the appropriate communities and the talent pool to make it successful.”
Security fears are spurring demand. Today, a quantum computer that can crack all manners of cybersecurity has yet to exist — a major source of concern for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Yet in Bethesda, one company is already offering technology to transmit quantum-encrypted data. Quantum Xchange, one of Fast Company’s most innovative companies in 2020, closed $13.5 million in Series A funding in January, and $23.5 million in all, to develop dark fiber quantum networks between D.C. and Boston. Its early tech transmits encrypted keys using photons, making it insusceptible to traditional hacking, and is called quantum key distribution.