A newly released report states that Washington state offers one of America’s best places to push the frontiers of quantum information science — but those frontiers are so strange and new that it’s difficult to grasp their potential.
The technology landscape report, titled “Quantum Information Sciences in Washington State,” was prepared by analysts at Moonbeam for the Washington Technology Industry Association’s Advanced Technology Cluster – and by WTIA in conjunction with this week’s Northwest Quantum Nexus Summit at the University of Washington issued .
Founded in 2019, Northwest Quantum Nexus membership demonstrates why the region is well-placed to play a leading role in the quantum revolution.
NQN’s partners include Microsoft and Amazon Web Services, both of which have launched cloud-based quantum computing platforms; Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, which is working on a range of quantum applications for national security purposes; and world-class research institutions like UW and Washington State University.
“This report validates our thesis that Washington State has the right mix of organizations and capabilities — from startups to established companies — to ensure Washington is a global leader in both adoption and commercialization of Quanten will,” Michael Schutzler, CEO of WTIA, said in a message.
But the report also says the state’s tech companies aren’t making full use of domestic talent.
“Washington State is producing more quantum-skilled professionals than it can hire,” Nirav Desai, CEO of Moonbeam, told summit attendees today. “No wonder considering you’re such a young field, but graduates from our leading institutions here are taking jobs in other states.”
The report found that 50 percent of students in quantum information science programs are foreign nationals, and that many of these students are struggling to obtain visas to continue working in Washington state.
Research and development funding is also mixed.
“Washington State has done a great job of attracting funding,” said Nick Ellingson, WTIA’s product director and startup ambassador. “The University of Washington was tremendous. WSU has also been great at winning grants for quantum research. But time and time again, Washington State is underrepresented in the basic investments that can be used to support startups.”
Ellingson said the state’s startups should be looking for more types of grants that don’t dilute the equity entrepreneurs have in their ventures. Prime examples are the federal government’s “Innovation Research for Small Businesses” and “Technology Transfer for Small Businesses” programs.
He pointed to the Seattle county on a map showing distribution patterns for quantum-related federal grants.
“If you consider where Washington State is in terms of the innovation economy globally, that circle is way too small,” Ellingson said. “When speaking to founders and entrepreneurs in this ecosystem, very few of them are aware of the opportunities that are available for funding technology commercialization. So it’s pretty important to help them understand that.”
Another challenge is helping the broader tech community understand quantum computing. This is not only because the fuzzy quantum world of superposition and entanglement is stranger than the well-understood world of ones and zeros of classical computers. It can also be hard to come to terms with the fact that it may be another decade before quantum technologies reach full maturity.
“We are now working with NQN to develop a ‘Quantum 101’ for investors and policymakers,” said Ellingson.
Ellingson recommended establishing startup accelerators and mentoring programs for the Pacific Northwest’s quantum computing projects, as well as gatherings that can foster connections with other technology clusters.
“We know we need to bring together cross-industry stakeholders in the region,” he said, “but we also believe that as a cluster we can play a role in bringing together other clusters from outside the region and people from home and abroad. here to have these conversations.”
These kinds of contacts can help Washington State’s tech community gain a better grip on the quantum computing market — a global market that’s expected to grow from $10 billion in 2022 to $125 billion in 2030, according to Precedence Research will rise.
For what it is worth, the WTIA report does not include similar assessments of market size or market share for Washington State. “We took care of it,” Ellingson said. “It’s so ‘early’ that we didn’t feel comfortable with the numbers.”
Perhaps it is only fitting that the economic prospects for quantum computing are still shrouded in uncertainty, like a cat both dead and alive.