By Gregory Arcuri and Hideki Uno
Read more about the CHIPS-related portions of CHIPS+ here.
Read more about the science-related portions CHIPS+ here.
The passing of the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022
signifies a concerted U.S. government effort to coordinate a national renewal in science and technology. The legislation places special emphasis
on rebuilding America’s advanced manufacturing capacity—specifically regarding the fabrication of semiconductor chips, a critical platform technology
However, CHIPS+ also bolsters ongoing U.S. efforts to establish leadership in quantum information science (QIS), a field of study which seeks to understand and harness the principles of quantum mechanics for a variety of technological applications, such as computing, encryption, sensing, communications, and simulation.
The Quantum Opportunity
While a viable, commercializable quantum device has yet to be developed, these technologies promise—in theory—to vastly outperform conventional systems such as classical computers in tackling specific problems. Quantum computers, quantum simulators, and quantum sensors may one day facilitate revolutionary leaps in other fields such as artificial intelligence, communications, cybersecurity and encryption, medical devices, and drug discovery, among others.
The economic windfall associated with being the first to develop a commercial quantum device—and the risks of allowing such a system to be developed and applied by adversaries—has compelled a robust policy response from U.S. lawmakers and regulators dating back to the late Obama administration. In November 2016, the National Science Foundation (NSF) recognized
research in quantum materials as one of its 10 Big Ideas deserving of future NSF investment. A year later, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy identified
QIS as a national research and development priority for the first time. This was soon followed by legislative action in the form of the National Quantum Initiative Act
(NQIA) in 2018, a comprehensive, 10-year plan coordinating several federal agencies to ensure U.S. leadership in quantum technologies.
While many of the broader science-related provisions
of CHIPS+ will have positive downstream effects on the U.S. quantum ecosystem, the quantum-specific provisions represent a recommitment to the NQIA and an important expansion of the federal government’s efforts.
Department of Energy (DOE)
The Department of Energy’s Office of Science was a significant beneficiary of new funds authorized under CHIPS+, seeing its budget increase fourfold from Fiscal Years 2023-2027. Under the NQIA and the Department of Energy Research and Innovation Act
of 2018, the Office’s activities had already been a key component of the national quantum initiative. In addition to conducting its own quantum research program, DOE’s network
of five Quantum Information Science Research Centers has been stewarding cooperation between government, industry, and academia towards advances in basic quantum research, technology transfer, and workforce development.
CHIPS+ amends and expands the Department of Energy’s quantum-specific activities in the following ways:
Quantum Network Infrastructure R&D Program
As an amendment to the NQIA, CHIPS+ authorizes $500 million ($100 million/fiscal year) towards a DOE Quantum Network Infrastructure R&D Program. “Quantum networking
,” which exploits quantum phenomena such as entanglement and superposition to securely transfer information at the scale of a single particle of light, is a critical potential commercial application for quantum technology. “Quantum network infrastructure” is the technology and expertise that facilitate this networking. The Office of Science will leverage a vast array of existing research infrastructure including its QIS Research Centers, the National Laboratories, and academic and other institutions to develop new quantum infrastructure methods.
Quantum User Expansion for Science and Technology Program
At present, there is a significant barrier to entry into quantum research given the tremendous complexity of quantum hardware, software, and processes. To address this, CHIPS+ amends the NQIA to include a Quantum User Expansion for Science and Technology (QUEST) Program, which will task the DOE with working to improve accessibility to quantum computing resources for U.S.-based researchers and laboratories through a transparent, merit-review application process. QUEST is authorized roughly $160 million from FY2023-2027.
Computational Science Graduate Fellowship Program
As an amendment to the DOE Research and Innovation Act, CHIPS+ reauthorizes the Computational Science Graduate Fellowship (CSGF) Program within the Advanced Scientific Computing Research Program. The CSGF, established
in the early 1990’s, has a long history of facilitating collaboration and talent acquisition from graduate schools to research institutions. In CHIPS+, CSGF is authorized roughly $87 million through FY 2027, and now includes research in quantum computing for DOE applications as a stated priority.
National Institutes for Standards and Technology (NIST)
NIST’s role in the national quantum initiative, for which it was authorized $80 million annually by the NQIA in 2018, was twofold:
- Leverage existing programs to advance research and workforce development in quantum information science.
- Convene a consortium of quantum industry stakeholders to identify needs for the development and sustainment of a robust quantum industry in the United States. Thus, the Quantum Economic Development Consortium (QED-C) was born.
CHIPS+ expands both the scope and funding of the first objective. The increased scope includes research and standardization priorities for (1) quantum and non-quantum cryptography, (2) quantum networking, communications, and sensors, and (3) interagency collaboration on quantum standards in networking infrastructure. To facilitate this expanded scope, NIST is authorized an additional $15 million annually through FY2027.
National Science Foundation (NSF)
While NSF was the most significant beneficiary of CHIPS+ authorizations with a $45 billion increase in its authorized budget over five years, its quantum-specific initiatives have a relatively small price tag. NSF’s role in the national quantum initiative dating back to 2018 was heavily focused on quantum workforce development and education. The two prongs of NSF’s quantum work included a basic research and education program and a competitively awarded grant program to designate and sponsor a network of “Multidisciplinary Centers for Quantum Research and Education” to leverage academic and private research resources towards quantum education and workforce development. These eventually became NSF’s five Quantum Leap Challenge Institutes
, consortiums of dozens of academic institutions and industry stakeholders exploring workforce development and education strategies for different quantum subfields.
CHIPS+ amends and expands the National Science Foundation’s quantum-specific activities in the following ways:
Incorporating Quantum Information Science and Engineering (QISE) into STEM Curricula
NSF aims to integrate QISE into academic and professional curricula in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) at all levels of education, including community colleges. The NSF Director will carry out activities based on several objectives. Such as how to incorporate QISE in elementary, middle, and high school curricula, as well as ways to engage underserved students in STEM, among others.
Quantum Education Pilot Program
NSF will support nonprofit organizations or institutions of higher education or consortiums in implementing the Next Generation Quantum Leader Pilot Program, which will seek to educate and train students and teachers studying quantum mechanics. This program is authorized $8 million for each fiscal year from 2023 through 2026.
As quantum technologies move from the theoretical to the tangible, it is essential to develop an innovation system able to support this transition. By recommitting to and selectively strengthening the national quantum initiative with CHIPS+, the U.S. government has taken an important step towards strengthening U.S. leadership in a critical emerging technology that may come to define the next era of scientific discovery and progress.
Gregory Arcuri is a research assistant with the Renewing American Innovation Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. Hideki Uno is an intern with the Renewing American Innovation Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.
The Perspectives on Innovation Blog is produced by the Renewing American Innovation Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a private, tax-exempt institution focusing on international public policy issues. Its research is nonpartisan and nonproprietary. CSIS does not take specific policy positions. Accordingly, all views, positions, and conclusions expressed in this publication should be understood to be solely those of the author(s).