Yale, UConn Propose a Connecticut ‘Quantum Corridor’

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Insider Brief

  • Yale and the University of Connecticut will use a $1 million planning grant to propose Connecticut as a regional hub for quantum.
  • The grant is part of the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) Engines program.
  • The planning project could lead to a potential $160 million award from the federal government.

PRESS RELEASE — Yale and the University of Connecticut will use a $1 million planning grant from the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) to formally propose Connecticut as a regional hub for quantum-related research, technologies, and jobs.

The grant, announced May 11, is part of the NSF Engines program, a national effort to turn cutting-edge research into new technologies that create jobs and promote economic growth. Congress authorized the program last year in the CHIPS and Science Act. Yale and UConn will use the grant to develop plans for nurturing new quantum-related companies, identify ways quantum research can help existing companies, and train a new workforce for quantum manufacturing jobs.

The planning project could lead to a potential $160 million award from the federal government — money that would be used to implement the proposed ideas into a Quantum-CT Regional Innovation Engine.

These NSF Engines Development Awards lay the foundation for emerging hubs of innovation and potential future NSF Engines,” said NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan. “These awardees are part of the fabric of NSF’s vision to create opportunities everywhere and enable innovation anywhere. They will build robust regional partnerships rooted in scientific and technological innovation in every part of the nation.”

Yale is a national leader in quantum research, which probes the exotic properties and dynamics of subatomic matter. Harnessing the power of quantum mechanics holds promise as a transformative area of science that could revolutionize entire sectors of the economy, from financial services to drug development and computing systems.

Yale has a stellar reputation in quantum science and a blossoming start-up community in quantum technologies,” said Michael Crair, Yale’s vice provost for research and co-principal investigator for the NSF grant. “This will be a multi-billion-dollar industry, and we’d love for Yale and UConn, with partners around the state, to nucleate a national quantum corridor in Connecticut.”

Quantum science and technologies hold so many keys to the future of Connecticut and the nation,” said Pamir Alpay, UConn’s interim vice president for research, innovation, and entrepreneurship. “Bringing together the expertise and research excellence of UConn, Yale, and many partners, Quantum-CT has the potential to be transformative for science, our economy, and workforce. This program extends opportunities to communities and sectors left behind by recent economic downturn and promotes equitability across the state.”

The proposed Quantum-CT Regional Innovation Engine brings together a broad coalition of public and private partners, in addition to Yale and UConn: the Connecticut governor’s office and several state agencies; municipal leaders from New Haven, Hartford, Waterbury, and Stamford; the Connecticut Business and Industry Association; companies, including Raytheon Technologies, Boehringer Ingelheim, and Quantum Circuits Inc. (a New Haven start-up founded by Yale physicists); the Connecticut Workforce Council; and business development and leadership groups including Advance CT, CT Next, and the Connecticut Small Business Development Center.

Gov. Ned Lamont said Connecticut is “ready, determined, and eager” to become a national hub for quantum technology.

Our workforce in Connecticut is the best educated and most talented in the nation, trained with the modern skills needed to make the United States an international leader in the research and development of the emerging field of quantum technology,” Lamont said.

Yale, which has made quantum research a priority over the past decade, is highly involved in the proposal. The Quantum-CT leadership team includes Crair; Richard Jacob, associate vice president for federal and state relations; Josh Geballe, managing director of Yale Ventures (a university initiative that supports innovation and entrepreneurship); faculty members Charles Ahn, Victor Batista, Yongshan Ding, Steven Girvin, Charalampos Papamanthou, and Robert Schoelkopf; and Jeffrey Brock, dean of the School of Engineering & Applied Science.

Yale is conducting some of the most impressive quantum-related research in the world, from major discoveries in quantum computing — which will likely revolutionize the way many companies operate — to breakthroughs in chemistry, materials, sensors, and electronics,” said Brock. “We’ve added faculty in these areas, as well, and have plans to build a new hub for quantum research over the next few years.”

Indeed, Yale scientists have conducted groundbreaking research in the development of superconducting qubits — “bits” of quantum data — with controllable properties. Yale’s “transmon” qubit has been used by private companies and researchers around the world working on quantum computing. Yale researchers also have made great strides in tackling error correction challenges — one of the biggest scientific hurdles remaining in quantum computing development.

Yale is likewise engaged in prominent research to create new quantum materials and sensors and explore basic quantum principles through math and physics. Later this year, Yale will begin the first phase of its planned Physical Sciences and Engineering Building (PSEB), which will gather faculty around quantum computing, quantum engineering, and materials science. PSEB is one of the largest facilities projects in university history.

Having Connecticut designated as a regional hub for quantum technology would enable a quantum leap in Yale’s ability to transition fundamental research discoveries into commercial products that will drive the creation of future jobs,” said Larry Gladney, Dean of Science for Yale’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences and a professor of physics. “We are leaders in quantum computing and quantum sensing, a position from which we can collaborate across the board with industry and government stakeholders to develop novel solutions to existential problems facing humanity.”

A key element of the planning grant involves translating cutting-edge research into high tech jobs and economic growth. The Quantum-CT leadership team will develop plans for a variety of potential new jobs, including technical positions that do not require advanced degrees.

We have a real opportunity here to devise a statewide strategy for advancing a new industry sector that will produce new companies and jobs, benefiting the entire state,” said Jacob. “In 2019, Yale startup Quantum Circuits Inc. opened its New Haven development and testing facility for quantum computing, and that is just the beginning of what we can do with our public and private partners.”

With the planning grant now in-hand, Yale, UConn, and state collaborators will concentrate on four areas of development:

  • Identifying industry partners with needs that can be matched with emerging quantum discoveries
  • Building an invention-to-impact model that includes seed grants and incubator space for new quantum tech start-ups
  • Creating a blueprint for training a state workforce with the skills needed to produce new quantum-related products
  • Designing the “innovation engine” – the entity that will take the lead in implementing the three-pronged strategy in research, invention-to-impact, and workforce training

Quantum science is where we have a clear research growth opportunity with huge potential and a societal need to translate that potential into novel goods and services, like quantum computers and cryptography,” Crair said. “Obviously, any related industry will translate into high quality jobs for New Haven and Connecticut. It’s a natural fit.”

Matt Swayne

Matt Swayne

With a several-decades long background in journalism and communications, Matt Swayne has worked as a science communicator for an R1 university for more than 12 years, specializing in translating high tech and deep tech for the general audience. He has served as a writer, editor and analyst at The Quantum Insider since its inception. In addition to his service as a science communicator, Matt also develops courses to improve the media and communications skills of scientists and has taught courses. matt@thequantuminsider.com

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