Budget2020 of the Narendra Modi government was an effort to address multiple issues while strengthening the invisible hand that props up entrepreneurship and investment. One interesting development announced during the Budget was an ₹8,000 crore outlay for a National Mission on Quantum Technology, which gained a lot of attention.
Quantum Technology – The Next Frontier
Quantum technology refers to an application-based field that has its roots in the principles of quantum physics. With particular focus on technologies that utilize its principles — such as quantum computing, quantum sensors, quantum cryptography, quantum simulation, quantum metrology and quantum imaging— it concerns the control and manipulation of quantum systems, with the goal of achieving information processing beyond the limits of the classical world.
As the government of India’s technology think tank TIFAC has stated in a concept note,
With a solid research base and workforce founded on significant and reliable government support, it can lead to the creation of innovative applications by industries, thereby stimulating economic growth and job creation, which will feed back into a growing quantum-based economy. The government‘s financial and organizational support will also ensure that both public and private sectors will benefit. A comprehensive National Quantum Initiative will establish standards to be applied to all research and help stimulate a pipeline to support research well into the future.
Big Potential for Global Disruption
Nature reported Ashutosh Sharma, secretary of the department of science and technology in Delhi citing India’s strength on theoretical quantum research, which now needs to be complemented by “infrastructure and experimental facilities”. It is expected that the new mission will oversee the development of quantum technologies for communications, computing, materials development and cryptography. The mission will also coordinate the work of scientists, industry leaders and government departments.
India’s investment through this Mission outlay puts it alongside the United States, Europe and Russia. As per reports, December 2018 saw the United States allocate US$1.2 billion over five years in a national quantum initiative, while Europe pledged US$1.13 billion for quantum technologies back in 2016. Russia is also reportedly spending the equivalent of hundreds of millions of dollars on quantum technologies.
While the national mission would come under the Department of Science and Technology, reports state that the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is on-board and may provide satellites at a later date that enable quantum technology related experiments. The mission is seeing the involvement of top research institutes of India in this domain, including the Raman Research Institute (RRI) and Indian Institute of Science (IISc) based in Bengaluru among others.
Addressing National Issues Through Quantum Technologies
The government has identified the need for government and industries to be prepared to develop these emerging and disruptive technologies for various reasons. A critical reason behind this push is the need to secure our communications and financial transactions. It is expected that the Mission will be ably address society’s increasing technological requirements, and account for international technology trends and road maps of leading countries for development of next generation technologies.
With a solid research base and workforce founded on significant and reliable government support, it can lead to the creation of innovative applications by industries, thereby stimulating economic growth and job creation, which will feed back into a growing quantum-based economy. The government’s financial and organizational support will also ensure that both public and private sectors will benefit. It will establish standards to be applied to all research and help stimulate a pipeline to support research and applications well into the future.