Product commercialization and strong collaboration between government, industry and academia needed for India’s advancement on Quantum Tech

The term Quantum Technology (QT) has become immensely popular and is no doubt frequently used. A simple search on Google’s News section yielded approximately 75,000,000 results; the main news is that Google and Amazon are scheduled to attend a White House forum on Quantum Technology.

Before we get into the why of QT, let’s take a step back to understand its origins. QT is based on quantum theory, the theoretical foundation of modern physics that explains the nature and behavior of matter and energy at the atomic and subatomic levels. Interestingly, the concept of atoms is over 2000 years old and we owe it to ancient Greek philosophers, who introduced it. Atom means ‘one that is unbreakable’.

Hypotheses about subatomic structure were formulated in the 19th century and eventually, in the early years of the 20th century, scientists including Max Planck and Albert Einstein contributed immensely to our understanding of quantum theory. The etymology of the term Quantum is fascinating in itself; it is derived from Latin and means ‘how big’ or ‘how much’.

The potential of Quantum Technology is indeed limitless. Countries and companies invest billions of dollars in research and development and build quantum communication networks to secure their cyberspace, especially in the areas of sovereignty and defense. Quantum computing is an important application of QT. Quantum computers process information fundamentally differently from classical computers. Instead of using transistors that can represent only the ‘1’ or the ‘0’ of binary information at a time, quantum computers use qubits that can represent both ‘0’ and ‘1’ at the same time. Because the system goes beyond regular logic, reason, and predictability, the randomness of possibilities opens up an exponentially larger computational space.

QT can be used in computing, supply chain logistics, cryptography, sensing, biology, meteorology, cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, telecom, banking, internet-of-things, defense and healthcare. In short, QT is tipped to play a huge role in our daily lives over the next 10 years.

This is why, according to Gartner, nearly 90 percent of organizations will be engaged in quantum computing projects and adopt quantum computing as a service by 2023. The total quantum market is expected to reach $240 million by 2025, growing at a CAGR of 48 percent.

Technology giants such as Google, IBM, Amazon, Toshiba and Microsoft have invested heavily in QT. Google recently achieved quantum supremacy by solving a problem in 200 seconds that would take a classical computer 10,000 years! IBM launched ‘IBM Quantum System One’ in Germany in June 2021, Europe’s most powerful quantum computer. IBM has a network of 150 organizations, including research labs, start-ups, universities and enterprises that access its quantum computers via the cloud.

Governments around the world, including the US, UK, Germany, Japan and China, are showing tremendous interest and progress in the future potential of QT. For example, China has set up a 4,600-kilometer quantum communications network across the country and also puts its major defense, banking and financial transactions on the quantum communications network. In the US, QT is one of the Pentagon’s top modernization priorities, potentially being used for a variety of military applications. These countries also provide fiscal and skills-based support and partner with private organizations to build their quantum technology infrastructures.

India is also taking steps to acquire QT. In the Union’s 2020 budget, India has allocated more than $1 billion, over five years, to the National Mission on Quantum Technology and Applications (NMQTA). Focus areas include basic science, technological development, human and infrastructure resource generation, innovation and start-ups to address issues with national priorities.

Separately, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) plans to build a national quantum communications network in conjunction with the Department of Telecommunications. The Ministry of Science and Technology, which oversees the disbursement of the allocated $1 billion fund, has designated government agencies to work with the private sector in areas such as product development, R&D and skills development.

India has so far achieved about 100 kilometers of quantum network, far behind other countries that have managed to develop thousands of kilometers of quantum network. To make rapid progress, India will need to focus on product development and commercialization alongside new, more intensive and sustainable R&D efforts. The impetus on native semiconductor manufacturing will also go a long way as these are critical and essential components for the development and commercialization of quantum technologies.

Most countries that have made significant progress in the field of quantum have one thing in common: strong collaboration between government, business and academia. India will also need to make these three elements work closely together in specific programs and projects to develop indigenous or ‘Made-in-India’ QT and networks to make their mark on the world map.

Tushar Gandhi is the CEO and Shreya Kamath is the researcher at the government policy firm Gateway Consulting. Views are personal and not necessarily those of

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