(Physics.org) This is the first of a must-read series of three opinion pieces by Irfan Siddiqi, a UC, Berkeley, physicist and two other quantum-technology leaders—Darío Gil, the director of IBM Research, and Joe Broz, the executive director of the Quantum Economic Development Consortium (QED-C). The idea for their articles—the first of which appears today—emerged from conversations between Gil and Siddiqi and, later, Broz, who says that the three of them wanted to clarify “the imperatives that are awaiting the quantum industry as it emerges.”
To maintain and ensure a leadership position, the US needs to sharpen its focus, accelerate the quantum innovation cycle, and boost commercialization. Currently, the country’s expertise is distributed among universities, labs, and companies. We must better align these resources to avoid any deceleration in progress, remove unnecessary duplication, and prevent inefficient use of precious national resources. And we must transform our mindset. The three authors of this series are calling on leaders in the government-industry-academia ecosystem to plan for and embrace a “quantum culture shift” that will leverage the nation’s full science and technology (S&T) enterprise.
This shift should splice together three powerful cultures. The scientific culture, which seeks to always get the fundamentals right. The roadmap culture, which adopts the expertise and development mindset from the world of product manufacturing and systems. And the agile culture, which—as exemplified by the software world—continuously demonstrates value. An agile culture evolves in response to technical advances and user feedback, as opposed to the prevalent “waterfall” approach to innovation, where one development phase is completed before moving on to the next.
Cultural historians tell us that the pathway to change generally proceeds in three phases: discovery, reward, and diffusion. A new approach is adopted only after society sees that it offers a better outcome. Cultures are also often slow to mutate because they get used to doing things a certain way and because change is uncomfortable when it introduces risk that did not previously exist. Leaders in the quantum community need to offset this cultural inertia. They must provide a clear vision for accomplishing change. Establishing this vision is essential for the US economy and national security, and it will lead to the breakthrough discoveries of tomorrow and a sustained competitive edge in quantum technology.

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