26th Apr 2021
U.S. President Joe Biden used his first White House Press Conference to express his belief in the importance of quantum computing for the future success of the country. Those looking to invest in quantum computing stocks might take notice of his recent comments, which follow the introduction of two House Bills worth $840m to the American quantum computing industry.
Biden declared his desire to significantly increase government funding for scientific research and development. He noted that “back in the ’60s, we used to invest a little over 2% of our entire GDP in pure research and investment in science. Today it’s 0.7%. I’m going to change that.”1 Biden said that China is “out-investing [the US] by a long shot because their plan is to own [the] future” and that the US intended to fight back with investment in a number of cutting-edge scientific areas, including artificial intelligence and quantum computing.
Biden’s commitment to the US’s quantum future is not a completely new policy. The National Quantum Initiative was signed into law on December 21, 2018. This Act provided for a Federal program to accelerate quantum research and development for the economic and national security of the United States. It acted as an umbrella to bring together the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the Department of Energy (DOE) towards the leadership of the United States in quantum information science and its technology applications. The Quantum Initiative promised $1.2bn over five years to create new research centers that would bring together academics from different disciplines, such as computer science, physics, and engineering, to help conduct experiments and train future quantum researchers.
What Biden’s administration has done, however, is to allocate $340m over five years to encourage and facilitate access to quantum computing hardware and quantum computing clouds for the purposes of research and education; and $500m over five years to establish a research, development and demonstration program to accelerate innovation in the U.S. quantum network infrastructure.2
The announcement of additional funding for quantum computing so early in the new presidential term, and its linkage to the US’s strategic need to remain competitive with China, highlights just how important this technology is understood to be for the country’s future.
Why is Quantum Computing so important?
Quantum Computing (QC) harnesses the peculiar properties of subatomic particles at sub-Kelvin temperatures to perform certain kinds of calculations exponentially faster than any binary digital (traditional) computer is capable of. They are not just faster at systematically processing the data; they do it in a fundamentally different way, with the ability to consider multiple possibilities at the same time. This paves the way for computing power and exploration of big data in ways that were simply impossible previously. Innovation in QC is directly linked to developments in Machine Learning, which relies upon machines gathering, absorbing and optimizing vast amounts of data.
Aside from smart cars, personalized consumer experiences and automated healthcare, QC has paradigm-shifting potential for cryptography, aerospace and defense, transportation and logistics. While industry use-cases are as wide ranging as financial services, retail and oil and gas, Biden’s announcement shows how governments are prioritizing this sector to ensure they stay ahead in an area of national strategic importance.
The QC space continues to progress, led by key players Honeywell International, Accenture, Google, Microsoft, Xanadu, Anyon System, QC Ware Corp and Intel Corporation. Recent developments have seen the first pure-play quantum computing company, IonQ, go public via the booming SPAC (special purpose acquisition company) structure – marking a moment towards the mainstreaming of a technology that till not so long ago was considered an academic curiosity, a move from the lab to the digital economy. This can also be seen in IBM’s March 31 announcement of a 10-year partnership with the Cleveland Clinic, including the first on-premise installation of an IBM quantum computer (1121 qubits) outside of an IBM facility. Given the sensitive conditions that QCs need to operate, this indicates a major step towards bringing QC into broader use.3
Further US governmental moves reflect the dynamism in the quantum space and a desire to be ready for next generation computing advances. The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) issued a Broad Agency Announcement in April 2021 calling for proposals for research in the area of quantum benchmarking. It is looking for initiatives dealing with the creation of application-specific, hardware-agnostic benchmarks and hardware resource estimation for quantum computers.4 In the context of President Biden’s comments, there couldn’t be a stronger message that the US is readying itself to lead and succeed in the QC market.
1 “President Joe Biden First White House Press Conference Transcript March 25,” March 25, 2021. https://www.rev.com/blog/transcripts/president-joe-biden-first-white-house-press-conference-transcript-march-25
2 “Two New U.S. House Bills for Quantum Technology Introduced with Proposed Budgets of $340 and $500 Million Respectively” March 18, 2021. https://quantumcomputingreport.com/two-new-u-s-house-bills-for-quantum-technology-introduced-with-proposed-budgets-of-340-and-500-million-respectively/
3 “Cleveland Clinic and IBM Unveil Landmark 10-Year Partnership to Accelerate Discovery in Healthcare and Life Sciences,” March 30, 2021. https://newsroom.ibm.com/2021-03-30-Cleveland-Clinic-and-IBM-Unveil-Landmark-10-Year-Partnership-to-Accelerate-Discovery-in-Healthcare-and-Life-Sciences
4 “Quantifying Utility of Quantum Computers: DARPA to develop “yardsticks” for measuring value of future quantum information systems,” Aril 2, 2021. https://www.darpa.mil/news-events/2021-04-02