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Government and University Research

A lot of the work that laid the foundations for quantum information was conducted by people who considered their field to be theoretical quantum mechanics. They produced results such as Bell’s theorem and the no-cloning theorem. Others, often theoretical computer scientists, focused on the theoretical relationships between computer science and physics, as in reversible computing. But since development of Shor’s algorithm, quantum computing and quantum information developed into its own unique intellectual pursuit.

Until fairly recently, the bulk of the funding for research in quantum computing came from the world’s governments. The research has been conducted at national labs and universities throughout the world. But as the field broadens and matures, and work spreads to encompass not just fundamental research but also advanced product development and ulitmately products, it is growing not just in funding amounts but in the diversity of funding sources and those executing the work. From the earliest days, there has been a substantial international effort, and that continues to spread, as well.


The race is on to build a full-scale machine, and government funding is a critical component. As experimental work has advanced, proving that building small-scale machines is possible, the total financial commitment has risen. As of this writing (mid-August, 2017), the world’s governments have collectively committed to spending some US$2,000,000,000 on quantum computing over the coming years.

In the United States, a great deal of funding has come from the Department of Defense. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (famous for funding the ARPANET, commonly acknowledged as the most important ancestor of today’s Internet) was an early supporter. Much money has come through the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Agency, or IARPA. Other money has come from the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, and other organizations. Some of the money has been targeted at solving core problems in designing and fabricating qubits through fundamental physical research. Although funding has been steady and generous, to date, the U.S. has not launched a truly large-scale, coordinated effort aimed at building a single machine.

Other countries and the EU have funded projects with attention at the level of the cabinet or head of government. In 2013, the UK committed 270 million pounds to four Quantum Hubs, aimed at initiating technology transfer from laboratories into industry. In 2016, the European Union announced a flagship program in quantum information, worth a total of one billion euros

Researchers in Australia and Canada have benefited from steady government support since the earliest days of the field.

Smaller countries that are doing disproportionately well, producing large amounts of world-class research despite smaller populations and smaller national research efforts, include Austria and Singapore.

Japan had a series of multi-institutional programs starting in the very early 2000s, including ones named CREST and FIRST; Van Meter and Satoh were both beneficiaries of these programs. In August 2017, the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS, similar to the US NSF) announced a 30 billion yen (almost US$300 million), ten-year project aimed at building a machine.

China is investing very heavily in quantum technology, especially quantum optics, including launching a satellite for quantum communication experiments and building a national quantum key distribution network.


Naming only a few institutions is grossly unfair to the many brilliant researchers spread throughout the planet, but it seems appropriate here to give you an idea of that breadth and who is doing the work.

In the U.S., every major research university has one or more faculty members working in the broad area of quantum information. Some have centers dedicated to the area. We have collaborated with, for example, researchers at Stanford, Harvard, Georgia Tech, Duke, and Yale. Government laboratories such as NIST, ARL, ORNL, and Sandia have their own internal efforts and also distribute research funding to universities and companies.

In Japan, government labs such as RIKEN, NICT, AIST and NII have strong groups. Universities include important national universities such as U. Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Tokyo Tech, Tohoku, and private universities such Keio, Waseda, Ritsumeikan and Gakushuin. These institutions all have contributed since the year 2000 or before, and have attracted researchers from all over the world.

In Canada, the University of Waterloo and the Perimeter Institute (also in the town of Waterloo), Montreal, U. Toronto, Calgary, and British Columbia have had prominent programs for many years. The field has benefited from generous support not only from the government, but also from philanthropists such as Mike Lazaridis, who provided funding for the Institute for Quantum Computing at Waterloo and Perimeter.

Europe has a strong university-based research community. In the UK, Oxford, Cambridge, Leeds, Bristol, York and Edinburgh have done fantastic work. In France, researchers at College de France, Paris Telecom, and elsewhere; in Switzerland, at Geneva; in Austria, at Innsbruck and Vienna. T.U. Delft, in the Netherlands, is a leader in several experimental technologies.

Researchers at UNSW, Melbourne, Macquarie and Queensland in Australia anchor much of the work in the southern hemisphere.

This abbreviated list will no doubt leave grievances among the many researchers (and even countries!) we haven’t addressed. If you are interested in a particular geographic region or institution, searching the web will very likely turn up researchers and professors there. Given that the field is still young, the researchers you find are likely to be young but well connected to others throughout the world.

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This article is from the free online course:

Understanding Quantum Computers

Keio University