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India joins race for quantum technology dominance

The momentum for quantum technology (QT) is growing rapidly as many countries, including India, dedicate resources for its various applications. QT uses the principles of fundamental physics to solve complex problems across a range of activities and sectors like computing, communications, metrology, security, and materials. Quantum computing (QC), a subset of that technology, is used in several industries, including healthcare and financial services.

QC uses the qubit as the basic unit of information rather than the conventional bit and its scale and speed is far ahead of what even a supercomputer can achieve.

“The global quantum effort leading to research and innovation in quantum science and technology is continually rising with current worldwide investments exceeding $38.6 billion. Overall, the global quantum technology market is projected to reach $106 billion by 2040,” according to talent and training firm Qureca.

India’s progress in QT depends on building a robust and reliable value chain, according to a recent report by industry association Quantum Ecosystems Technology Council of India (QETCI). The components and materials required for QT are often challenging to produce and integrate, necessitating efficient supply chain management to ensure timely availability and quality, said the report. “India is dependent on foreign sources for critical goods and services that build up the quantum ecosystem. Apart from limited exposure to supply chain risk, a localised supply chain lies at the heart of economic resilience and strategic autonomy.”

The government in April 2023 approved a National Quantum Mission (NQM) at a total cost of Rs 6003.65 crore from 2023-24 to 2030-31, aiming to “seed, nurture and scale up scientific and industrial R&D [research and development] and create a vibrant and innovative ecosystem in Quantum Technology (QT).
A government policy statement said, “This will accelerate QT-led economic growth, nurture the ecosystem in the country and make India one of the leading nations in the development of Quantum Technologies & Applications (QTA).” Four thematic hubs (T-Hubs) will be set up in top academic and national R&D institutes: For QC, quantum communication, quantum sensing and metrology, and quantum materials and devices. “The call for pre-proposals for the thematic quantum hubs by the Department of Science and Technology in January 2024 as part of the National Quantum Mission is a welcome start to 2024. This is a sign of accelerating efforts in the quantum ecosystem in India with a strong government impetus,” said Reena Dayal, founder and chief executive officer of QETCI.

QETCI’s report said that developing a quantum processor is only one part of the story and the electronics needed to manipulate qubits require attention too.

India doesn’t have companies for quantum electronics, making the country dependent on imports. A quantum computing hardware firm may need to spend anywhere between Rs 70-100 lakh annually, especially when setting up. QC devices are laboratory-based computation arrangements, much like the early years of mainframe-based classical computing.

The good news, according to the report, is that quantum start-ups in India are increasing. In 2021, there were less than 10 such companies in the country. By 2023 the number increased to more than 20. These companies are working in QC, quantum communications, quantum security, quantum sensors, solutions, consulting and education, and outreach.

QT-based computer connectivity is far more secure. The NQM is focusing on satellite-based secure quantum communications between ground stations spread over 2,000 km in India for secure long-distance communications with other countries. For India, QT solutions could strengthen its national capabilities. Business Standard

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